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My mask for the beach pit fire on September 10 at Dillon Beach.

I’m so lucky to have taken two Rebecca Love Beyond the Mask workshops over the last three years in her gorgeous barn studio in Occidental.   Last weekend I joined 5 students in working on these evocative sculptural self-portraits.  This time I worked on a mask of and for my mother.

This mask process seem to literally go far “beyond”, as her class name states.  Rebecca takes molds of our faces and pulls ceramic forms.  But it gets wild from there.  For three days we study these forms and work on them.  Wrinkles or no wrinkles? You choose.  Paint? Powder?  What ceramic accessories should we make? Collage? What parts of our stories to leave in? Out?

The maks become increasingly symbolic.  They are meant to carry stories, to be imbued with narrative.   You can see the narrative of friendship, travel, and dreaming in her mask below, which uses icons from the Wizard of Oz.  Toto, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore!

Rebecca Love’s mask, with her Beyond Story.

The masks are made and pulled in raw clay on Day 1, as we students learn how to handle clay and make additional smaller masks for the beach pit fire later. The masks are fired overnight in her kiln on Day 2, after Rebecca and the mask makers have altered them.  We decorate on Day 3.

My mother’s mask just out of the kiln.

It’s a truly epic journey, with lots of suspense.  How do we want to be seen?  How much age and damage do we care to show? Will the mask break in the kiln?  You watch others go through entire processes on their masks, and the group contributes to problem-solving.  Which symbols of our life are really important? Rebecca serves two exquisite meals a day, and wine, cheese and chocolate has been known to appear around three o’clock.  Beauty, truth, lies, reality, youth, age, life events, soul… all go into the kiln.

I can’t wait for the pit fire at Dillon Beach on September 10.  It’s an all-day communal event with sculptors, ceramicists, students.  We dig a large pit and use the ancient fuels of seaweed and cow dung to fuel the kiln.  The results are unpredictable, moving, gorgeous, odd, sometimes exploded, just like life.  Consider taking a Beyond the Mask workshop and look at the photos at http://www.rebeccalovesculpture.com/Workshop-Events.html .  It’s a treat for the artist’s psyche.  (I have to go now to help Rebecca gather “fuel” from the field across from her studio. We’re keeping the creative fires burning.)

Note from Suzanne:  You can read what’s “beyond the painting” in my notes on “Upside Down,”  my most recent work.  See Art Blog Saltworkstudio here.




Post written by Suzanne Edminster