Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Unit 1 Part A: extend your own arts practice

Felted mask workshop

On 11th March I attended a felted mask making workshop with Carol Mowl, a textile teacher, at her studio at Beetlefelt in Manchester. Prior to the workshop I drew a few mask designs to follow during the workshop, in which I included colours and some detail that I could base my mask designs on.

First I discussed my designs with Carol to see if it would be possible to create them in the way that I pictured them. There were mask bases with different facial features and expressions to chose from. I chose a feminine mask with subtle features for one mask and a more masculine mask for the second mask.

The process for making a felted mask is as follows. I covered the table with plastic sheeting, with a towel on top, then a layer of bubble wrap, and a piece of thin nylon material similar to fine net curtains. For the lion mask I chose a base colour of off white and covered the nylon with a thin layer of wool tops with the fibres facing horizontally I then applied another layer of the same colour this time with the fibres facing vertically, and a third layer facing horizontally again. For the fourth and final layer I added different colours to detail light and shade, eyebrows, nose and whiskers, with several strands of curly unspun wool to create the mane.

Then came the hard work. I covered the wool with another sheet of nylon, poured lukewarm water over the top, flipped it over to add more water on the back, massaged soap into both sides. Then I massaged the fibres quite vigorously on the upper and lower surface in order to felt every fibre and strand of wool into place. This process took around ten minutes and I kept checking to see if the wool was felting together and to pin point which areas needed more massaging.

The hardest part of the whole process involved rolling up the two layers of nylon including the felted piece and towel into a sausage which I then rolled backwards and forwards with a lot of pressure. I then unrolled it, turned the two nylon pieces by 90 degrees, repeating the process of rolling and turning by 90 degrees another two times until it had gone the whole 360 degrees and completely felted together.

Next came the messy part. I carefully removed the nylon sheets and put my mask into a large bowl of diluted PVA glue until it had soaked through the felting. I then placed the mask over the mask base, manipulated the material until in the right position, moulded it into the mask base shape and added details such as wrinkles, cheekbones and eyes. I pegged the wrinkles to hold them until the piece had dried which takes up to a week.

For the second mask the same process was used, but the mask was left unfinished until it had dried so that I could trim it down to size and add elastic to make it ready to wear.

Unit 1 Part A: extend your own arts practice

Plan for gold arts award Unit 1

I have named my project 'The use and history of masks in performance arts'.

My primary art form is illustration and visual arts in general. I enjoy working in pencil, watercolour and using digital software such as Paint Tool SAI, Photoshop and Paint. I like to illustrate fashion designs such as evening wear, fantasy wear and decorative wear with an underlying Gothic and punk tone. I like to design role play characters and their outfits and weapons. I am currently focusing on drawing the human form and experimenting with monochrome pastels. I like to draw mis-shapen humans because I find them more interesting than the 'perfect' body.

The different types of visual art that I enjoy and which inspire me include the Japanese cartoon form of Anime which has its origins in Manga. Manga are a type of comic that are drawn in a style that was originally developed in the late 19th century. They cover a wide range of genres. It was Manga that inspired me to start drawing, practising and to take it seriously.

My new art form is drama and acting. I plan to research the use of masks in performance arts and their historical use. I will research Brecht's use of masks in his performances. The artistic challenge that I have set myself is to work with a local drama group, Stage Directions, attending acting workshops with a view to creating a series of masks in a variety of mediums. The different mediums will include a felted mask. I will be attending a felted mask workshop with a local practitioner. I will also produce paper mache masks. I am fascinated by the use of performance masks and I aim to also explore the use of tribal masks and their meanings. I will be working with the director of Stage Directions who is a professional actor and drama teacher.

I aim to collect evidence of the drama masks via photographs and sketches. I will record the process via a blog. After researching the historical use of performance masks I will create designs that are influenced both by the masks I have researched and their use in performances including the meanings that they represent. I plan to share photographs of the finished items on my blog along with a video of the masks being used in a drama workshop. I will gather feedback on the workshop by asking participants and the audience to fill out questionnaires which I will then post on my blog.

One of my weaknesses is that I tend to start many projects but I find it hard to finish them or know when to leave them and call them finished. Another weakness is that I find it very hard to leave my comfort zone and will avoid leaving it if I can. For example abstract paining is very much out my comfort zone so I tend to avoid creating abstract pieces or I will find a way to change abstract into a figurative piece.

I include as my strengths the fact that I am happy and willing to apply many hours a day to working on any visual art project. This means that I am constantly learning to new use new mediums and new techniques.