Years ago, before I decided to start a nonprofit helping artists, I used to allow myself more time for my own art. In fact, I even used to make money (gasp) with my creative skills.
For years I worked as a make-up artist, which included making masks and monsters for the masses. It was a huge time, and I wasn't half bad at it, either.
But mostly, it was fun.
It was a surprise to me when I learned years ago my grandfather was an artist also. Apparently he would re-paint over the family's record labels with images of birds and such.
And it shouldn't have been such a huge surprise when I learned that Sri Lanka had such a rich cultural history of masks and mask-making. Of all media - masks? Really?
I was determined to dig a little deeper into this aspect of Sri Lankan culture.
Fortunately, the internet helps with such things. I love the internet!
I was able to find a family-run Masks Museum, and my mother and I stopped by on our way to Galle Fort.
The Ariyapala Masks Museum is in the Ambalagonda region of Sri Lanka, know for it's rich history of masks and maskmaking.
The Museum is donation-based, and has a really nice collection of handcrafted masks and costumes.
In addition to the masks museum, there is also a sculpting shop where they make and paint masks in the traditional Sri Lankan style.
After we toured the museum, we stopped at the shop. They were incredibly welcoming and showed us the mask-making processes.
They even invited me to carve with them. :)
Of their styles of masks, this one is relatively simple:
Still - it takes many many hours of carving! The workers at the Mask Museum said this type of mask is something that somebody who has had a summer's worth of apprenticeship would be able to create.
After the masks are sculpted, they are painted in natural paints, using vibrant colors. Some masks are given an "antique" look - like the one you will see further below.
My mom with an unpainted mask. Scary without makeup, no?
The mask above depicts the 18 demons or diseases, painted in an antiqued fashion. This level of work could only be completed by a master carver.
It was incredibly inspirational to visit the Mask Museum - and while traveling I came up with a slew of ideas that I'm itching to carve up.
Now if only I could allow myself the time to focus on my own creative activity...
Links of Interest