How I Create My Work
Homeward bound from Flat Island, off Addison, Maine
The wool for these mask sculptures comes from wild island sheep on islands of the Nash Archipelago off the coast of Addison, Maine. Early in June, friends in a flotilla of lobster boats, skiffs and kayaks arrive on the rocky beach. We shear the sheep and grade and roll the fleeces. Wild irises grow among the rocks, and eagles and sea birds nest in great numbers near the shore.
Below, shearing is in full swing. One of the children holds a lamb, and fleeces are rolled for grading. Click the photo to enlarge.
Because of the moor-like meadows, the fleeces are unusually clean and lustrous. Back home, I like unfolding the huge wooly mass at my feet, picking up one end of it and watching each fiber gently twist into the thread that becomes the yarn for the mask. The masks are constructed intuitively as I go, and woven flat.
I begin with one shot of handspun wool on the linen warp, then continue, thinking consciously only about construction, letting my unconscious creative spirit move naturally in the work. I weave with my fingers. When I am finished weaving, I cut the warp from the loom and gently tighten the weft on the warp threads, helping them assume the shape they naturally take based on the woven shapes and spaces. This forms a three-dimensional sculptural face which brings into being the spirit of the mask. Next the mask is felted onto a headdpiece. Laboring to shape the wool into felt is very much like the birth process: out of water and warmth a new being appears!
Finally, I create the headdress using wet felt, needle felting, Bolivian round weave, crochet, and other materials and techniques. I work the headdress and face to a state of wild and colorful completion.
Many of the masks are displayed on wrought iron frames made by neighbor Joe Meltreder, a long-time farrier and blacksmith from Hungary.
I like using natural dyes for my yarns. I especially love madder root, Japanese indigo (dyer's knotweed), weld and goldenrod which I can grow or gather by the garden. Walnut hulls from friends become a deep brown dye. The fibers of the mask are imbued with the spirit of the plants.
I find that the rich relationship of nature and spirit embodied in the masks shows all creation to be a mask of the divine.