Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Location of Meaning - An Open Letter of Gratitude

I'm grateful for my life, for the work I do and, as a result of it, for the many interesting, creative, and fun people I've met over the years. I'm thrilled by the response the masks receive and, since the very beginning, how interested and curious those I meet are about my creative process. Regardless of the particular mask that strikes their fancy, people often ask me the same question--What inspired me to create it? In my fantasy, I have a short answer, something compelling and, given the fast-paced show environment, able to be expressed in under 15 seconds. In reality, I often feel incapable of adequately responding because, to my way of thinking, it's an impossible question; my answer would have to include a detailed account of my entire life and would go on and on long after the show was over and everyone had gone home. Still, with some time to write and with deep gratitude for the genuine curiosity of those who ask, I'll attempt a response.

Showing my work as I do, I have plenty of opportunity to watch people look at, try on, and let the masks speak to them. I often wonder what movie plays behind their eyes that I cannot see. In a sense, the same question they ask me is one that I silently ask them--Why this or that mask? In his book After Babel, George Steiner writes that in expressing something, "We normally use a shorthand beneath which there lies a wealth of subconscious, deliberately concealed or declared associations so extensive and intricate that they probably equal the sum and uniqueness of our status as an individual person." The same is true for a handmade object. It's the nature of the creative process that it cannot be captured in explicit language. Like a poem, the object itself is its own best expression; to describe it further in language is at best gilding the lily, at worst fogging the glass.

What do you see when you look at the masks? What feelings are evoked in you? Perhaps the masks are trying to convey their “style” more than anything else. To you, what does that style say about me? And...what does your attraction to a mask’s weight, its line and form, the material it's made of say about you? Any power the mask holds exists, most fully, in its ability to stimulate the asking of these questions.

What I think of as the defining moment, the seed of my decision to choose masks as a form of creative expression, happened twenty years ago as I stood inside a shop at South Street Seaport in NYC and stared, for what felt like my entire one-hour lunch break, at a wall of primitive-looking clay masks. The masks spoke to me as if in a dream and what I heard was "we are rich and deep and full of mystery" and I fell in love and, in that moment, I felt chosen in return. I left there with a secret, so full of excitement because I'd been searching and didn't know, until that moment, for what. Since then, as with any affirming, long term relationship, I've learned to listen better, to accept the ebb and flow, and to see our relationship with new eyes daily. It's a rigorous practice and with it, my understanding of and ability to articulate my feelings about the masks has evolved. So too has my style. It's an ongoing dialogue full of details.with light and dark places that reach out, recoil and melt away.

I create masks because I thrive on the challenges it presents and, as the saying goes, I'm committed to following my bliss. What sparks the creation of a particular mask could be something as seemingly insignificant as the shape of a fallen twig or the way dew drops hang heavy along the lower edge of a wild rose branch in winter. On the other hand, it could be something as complex and beautiful as Ernst Haeckel's illustrations of radiolaria.

Below are two images. In the first is pictured a class of marine invertebrates, illustrated by artist and biologist Ernst Haeckel, known as Siphonophores. In the other is a black leather mask I created called Daedalus (in Greek Mythology, the great artificer). I've put these two images side by side as a way of showing the process of metamorphosis and how what follows, from initial inspiration, is a kind of channeling of conscious and unconscious insights that, in the end, give rise to a finished mask. So much ground is covered between here and there that the mask's assumed "personality" is sometimes a surprise even to me. As I worked, the mask developed into something unfamiliar, though not unrelated to Siphonophores and, as it turns out, the name I settled on, Daedalus, with it's unusual ae spelling, became a strange and distant homage to artist and illustrator Ernst Haeckel. In thinking about it, I'm reminded that the connection is always there but it's often something very subtle.

So, where is the location of meaning? Is it somewhere along that road, is it in my head, my hands, my heart, is it in the fallen twig, or is it located in the movie that plays behind your eyes when you look at it? At its root, I believe the masks are an expression of my awareness of and interest in these questions, in the constantly shifting location of meaning. I revel in the giving of my attention to this subtle dance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Annual Summer Showing - NYRF

The New York Renaissance Faire

Each year, beginning the first weekend in August and running for eight consecutive weekends only including Labor Day, I attend and display my work in my permanent booth at location #29 Lakeside. If you're interested in joining in the fun, saying hello and seeing (and trying on) the masks in person please check out the NYRF website at The show is located in Tuxedo, New York (35 miles north of NYC). Directions and complete information about the event can be viewed on their website.

Look forward to seeing you this summer.

Chinese proverb say...take look, all connected.

I began working on this Thangka in December 2008. Though this may appear to be a divergence from the masks I'm known for creating, I don't think so. Perhaps the genuineness of a mask is concealed very deeply inside of it and in transcribing it, shifting domains is often helpful. In this way, meaning manages to float to the surface for those who wish to translate.

A purrfect fit

The last word I would ever use to describe the masks I create is adorable. Still, it was the word that came to mind after making this sexy little headpiece and putting it on for the first time. Here's how it goes, a leather strap runs across the forehead (and ties behind the head) and another strap, with two leather cat shaped ears (silk velvet lined) perched upon it, drapes over of the head. For pricing or to purchase this headpiece Bastet or either of the two wrist cuffs shown below (minus the beautiful model Anyssa) please email me at

Pictured below are two new cuff styles. Both are leather. This first pair is my button stud cuff set (solid brass studs and O rings), silk velvet lining. It's soft and so nice to wear.

This next pair is velvet lined as well with a satin silk ribbon tie closure. Nickle silver "D" rings.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Creative Process - New Work

Thankfully, this winter has been easier than last. During the summer of 2008, I created a mask that I call Daedalus (now included as part of the "Classic Collection" on my website which has inspired a series of newer masks and has kept the creative juices flowing during those long, cold days of January.

Before I tell you about these newer masks there's something I want to tell you about the way I work--I'm slow. I do not decide to add a mask in as part of my published collection until I've had plenty of time to sit with it and feel my way through the creative process. As the saying goes, ideas are a dime a dozen, they occur suddenly and are often, in their original form just a stepping stone. When it comes to working through them, I'm critical and I take my time. I say this to let you know that, along with this, goes a fair amount of self doubt. My "aha" moments are repeatedly tempered by the truest test I know of how a mask is developing. At the end of the day I walk away from it and upon entering my studio the next morning I allow my first impression to mean something. If, when I see it again, my senses confirm the ineffable "Ah yes, that's it" response I know--so far so good. Those are happy moments, full of delight, in which I feel like an explorer in sight of new land.

Starting in the summer of 2008 with Daedalus my most recent creations came about in much the same way. There was no shortage of pitfalls along the way but there was and is something about creating this new work that has felt liberating for me in terms of the practical concerns I address during the creation of a new mask i.e. it must fit comfortably, be nicely balanced and not too heavy. This is not to say that these masks do not satisfy in that regard, only that, this time, I didn't feel boxed in by these considerations. Below are two examples. The first image is a mask I'm calling Phoenix. The mask pictured in the photo below that I've named Lotus-Eyed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bruce Museum Outdoor Crafts Festival 2009

On the weekend of May 16th and 17th I will be participating in an outdoor showing on the beautiful grounds of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT. During the afternoon there will be musical performances and children's activities offered. Come and enjoy the day, see my new work and bring a picnic or purchase lunch at the festival. For more information please visit their website at

Friday, March 20, 2009

We All Wear Masks

I have always loved to watch people. I notice those around me; I read their faces and watch their body language as if for clues. I see the masks we wear every day. If I can see the mask, then perhaps I can see what’s underneath it. I learn so much from watching people put on one of my masks. Although for some, the experience is threatening, for others it holds a deep, mysterious attraction. I like to witness them experience a juicy chance to pretend that anything that goes on inside can be truly hidden. It’s odd to me how ironic the mask is­­­­—revealing and concealing are no more than two sides of the same coin. My face is a mask; the mask, an instrument of revelation. It’s difficult to tell the two apart. Nearly two decades have passed since I created my first leather mask. My ability to explain this act to myself has deepened over time. For now, the Why? question seems to have transformed itself into a statement: We all wear masks! We can’t help it. Without them, we would cease to be what we are—human. And so, when the mask calls, we answer. And before we know it, we realize that how we answer is yet another mask, and so on and on…

Thank you for visiting my blog.