About Cwicseolfor Masks

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Cwicseolfor Masks - On Masks and Odd Spelling - The Maskmaker
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Cwicseolfor Masks

These unique masks are made in an ancient tradition best known for its manifestation in Italy. The most common traditional means of leather maskmaking involved shaping leather over a carved or sculpted mold, and quite a handful of mask artists today carry on this technique. Leather can also be hand-sculpted freeform, and this is the technique employed for all Cwicseolfor's work.

Hand-forming the leather means that each mask is created each time from scratch by the maskmaker. A single artist is responsible for all phases of mask design and production, and never will two sculpts ever be quite the same. All cutting, carving and tooling is done individually to each mask, and so with the painting; brush strokes may still be seen under careful observation. Any embellishments used are prepared and fixed by hand and may occasionally, when noted as such, be handmade. The product of this process is a wholly unique artwork, whether as one of a series or as an original and singular design.

These masks are made with the intention that they be worn, but hopefully they will hold a place as cherished ornaments in the home as well. Their durability and long life when treated with care may mark them with time as objects of memory and value beyond their origination. This is the ideal held by the maskmaker, and nothing could please more.

On Masks

Masks have a tremendous reputation in their ability to disguise, conceal, and otherwise obscure. Commonly this is perceived as a negative trait, and at the very best of dubious virtue - for who would need to conceal themselves, and why?

Masks are a truly ancient artform - among the earliest evidences of human culture there are depictions of what seemed to be masked human figures of religious or ritual significance. It is most likely that these masks were not for purposes of disguise, but rather of transformation, costuming as and thereby taking on the persona of a deity. These rituals can be seen across cultures, and in some parts of the world still observed.

Masks still have transformative power of a sort. Rather than obscuring identity, mask and costume give us means by which to express differently our own personalities. Who we are en masque is not always a falsehood, but often a sublimation of a different facet of a natural self than that which we ordinarily show. Much has been made of our "wearing masks" in daily life - how we are not the same people at home as at work or at play. If you need proof of costume's transformative power over identity and our relations with others, consider the last Halloween, Fasching, Mardi Gras, Carnival or Purim celebration you attended (or even heard about). One behaves differently when others perceive one differently.

"Cwicseolfor" is thus an extension of this notion that masks have the power to transform - the Old English term from which we derive our "quicksilver," living silver, mercury. This mobile, liquid substance defied the solid nature we perceived other metals as possessing, and thus took on literary significance as capricious, mutable, inconstant. Unpredictability being frightening, these were all considered dangerous things. (Who remembers Mercutio?)

Masquerades were well-known for being wild revels, and this quality of self-but-not still possesses the allure it held centuries ago for many people. Whether intended to divorce your identity from your actions by means of disguise, or to bring out particular aspects of an extant self, masks and masquerade remain a vibrant tradition of controlled change.

The Maskmaker

A single maskmaker is responsible for all mask design and production - and also for marketing, management, web design and maintenance, and sales. She is enthusiastic about her work and the ideas and satisfaction of customers and more than willing to correspond regarding each. She has always been fascinated by shapeshifting in legends and myth, and early on had a great love of special effects and costuming. As she began to discover the transformative quality that costuming and makeup can have on persona, her interest in the theatrical intensified. She was introduced to maskmaking as an artform when she set herself to creating two masks for her high school prom, finding that masquerade-style masks introduced a visual sense of duality, revealing enough of the face beneath to draw the eye back and forth between the mask and the wearer alternately. With a newfound love of the art, she progressed to better materials, finally settling on leather as the ideal medium for her style.

A largely self-taught artist, her leather techniques are the results of her own experimentation and learning, and she is fervently discovering and inventing ways to implement new techniques. Maskmaking has become her primary art form and a great passion.

For more on the artist, please see the Links page.