Last year I was blessed to receive a Maine Arts Teachers Fellowship from the Maine Alliance for Arts Education. With this grant, I was able to work under the mentorship of weaver Susan Barrett Merrill. I first met Susan in a workshop about five years ago, and had wanted to work with her again ever since. My summer of fellowship was amazing! Susan led me through the seven keyforms in her book Zati: The Art of Weaving a Life. I was most excited to learn sculptural weaving techniques - especially to make masks. I had been making masks for several years, but always with clay. It felt awesome to blend my masking background with my new love for weaving.
The process of creating a Zati Mask is soul-opening, and time consuming. You begin with a visualization and an intention for what you want your mask to represent. I most times try to connect with animal spirits, although the mask above is my Hecate mask. My interest in mythology came through clearly, and a darker, more introspective part of myself.
The physical process of creating the mask involves the initial weaving of the face shape, then a warp-weft pulling of strings to create a three-dimensional look. The mask is felted onto a hood shape and embellished as desired. The entire process for me can take anywhere from 20-40 hours. I expect the next mask I make to take longer if I am able to complete my vision. It truly is deep-level soul work.
During my fellowship, I also built a cedar log Earth loom, a beaver stick Story Loom, and wove one of my favorite tapestries to date: Journey. Check out the photos to the right on my blog site. To visit Susan's website, click on "Weaving a Life", listed under my Website Links.
If you are an art teacher in Maine (visual, dance, music, theater, etc.), you should consider applying for the Maine Arts Teachers Fellowship. It is a great program that grants money ($5000!) to develop your own work as an artist. Click on Maine Alliance for Arts Education, listed under my Website Links.