Sunday, April 30, 2006

Three more new pieces in progress

I have another three pieces that are ready to stain. First is another dance object, which was probably suspended from the ceiling. I will actually mount these little sea mammals on a larger disk - about 10" accross. I made this first one, then finished the animals, and found they are too crowded. There are a family of three beluga whales, a ringed seal, two walrus heads, and one fish (cod or salmon?). The biggest piece is 3.5" long, the smallest are the walrus heads, which are 1.5" high, and about 1" accross. The original piece this is modeled after was quite large - several feet accross. The circle they all rest on represents the ocean. The rim will be circled with five feathers, radiating out.

Below is a "Shaman Mask". He has doors on his tummy that open to reveal a face hidden behind. This figure is unusal, in that it does not depict the duality of male/female. The face behind the doors is male (grinning) and goggled, which may represent the snow goggles the Eskimos wore to prevent snow blindness when out hunting on the ice and snow. The insides of the arms and legs will be studded with 'teeth', another shamanistic symbol, used to represent the magical ability of a shaman to transform. In the act of transformation, it was thought you could see the insides (bones and guts) of a shaman.

Finally, this is a "Two-Faced Mask". It is also shamanistic, and represents the dual nature (male/female) of man - female visage on the bottom, male above. . The 'tail' or appendage on the head will be studded with teeth, and have to hoops with dangling appendages that would make noise when a dancer moved. This piece measures 20" high and 3.5" accross.

I have started yet another mask, which isn't far enough along to photograph yet. That, and another 2-3 I have planned should put me in the home stretch! I am off every Friday in May, so I have to get cracking and get these all finished!

Finished Birds

I finally managed to get photos today of the three bird masks, now finished. The first of the birds is the "Snowy Owl Inhua" below. I think I described the mask pretty thoroughly in my earlier post a few weeks ago. But this shows the Snowy Owl with her 'yua' or human being (spirit). She's made of cottonwood bark and glass beads. Size: 10"h x 10"w.

Below is the "Diving Loon" mask. She has a shark fin on her back, protruding from a long toothed mouth-like opening. She has human legs and arms - depicting a shaman in transformation. On the right and left are ulus, or women's knives. They are attached with baleen, which makes them springy. Their curved blades are ideal for fileting and cutting meat. (I use mine for cutting pizza and veggies, as well as skinning fish! ) The toothy mouth and mixture of human and animal parts are typical of shamanic masks. Material: cottonwood bark, spruce and alder root, feathers, glass beads, baleen. Size: 12"h x 15"w.

Below are two views of the "Murre with Kayaker", which isn't a mask, but a dance object or sculpture. It was designed to hang from the ceiling of the community house with gut or twine. I haven't yet figured out how I'll display my piece - I think I'll use some sort of twine, which will require drilling a hole through the head and tail. The murre carries a man in a kayak that looks like a sei whale. The Eskimo and Aleut kayaks did look like whales, with turned up double prows, and often had eyes painted on either side of the front. The man is using a leaf-bladed paddle, and wears a traditional hunting hat (Aleut/Koniag style). These were made of bentwood, and decorated profusely with stylized drawings and designs of waves, sea mammals, hunters, and flowers. Size: 15" long x 17" wide wingspan.

This photo shows the Murre in 'flight' (I just jury-rigged it using heavy monofilament). In this shot, you can see the ulu blade mounted in her belly. I am not happy with the photo, but after I figure out how to hang this piece, I'll get some more photos.

Monday, April 24, 2006

More, more, more!

Seems like forever since I've posted! I have the three birds completed - two are hanging next to their siblings on the family-room wall, the other is still waiting for me to figure out how she should stand/hang. I have an additional three new ones whose pictures I haven't taken yet. They are almost ready to stain. I had to go buy some new tung oil this weekend, as my old bottle had started to congeal. Once it's exposed to oxygen, tung oil doesn't have much of a shelf life. I think I've had my bottle for more years than the ideal time. Then I discovered the white oil paint I've always used for stain contains lead!! I had always had the really small tubes, which either didn't state there was lead in the paint, or I couldn't read the tiny print. So now I have to switch. I've always used titanium white. I think the only other white is China white.

So - I have been working, really I have! I will try to snap some pics tonite of my new stars - the unfinished ones. This coming weekend, I hope for bright, dry weather so I can shoot the three birds (photos, not guns).

Am I crazy yet? I keep worrying about packing the masks for shipping. The gallery owner advised double-boxing, making a pillow to surround each piece with bubble wrap, and filling the empty space of the box with styrofoam peanuts or the other biodegradable stuff.

At least after I get the finished work off in the mail, I can concentrate on slides for the presentation and class. I won't have to prpare any new class materials, as I'll use what I prepared last year.

And it's finally spring here in Washington! We've had flowers blooming - but it has been chilly for this time of year. Today, the temp reached 71 F. I didn't even need my jacket or sweater that I'd bundled up in this morning!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Three Birds

After some delay - namely, fighting with some cruddy bug last weekend, and the effects of the "Spring Ahead" time change, here are the next three pieces. They are shown dry-assembled - which means they haven't been glued together yet. It makes it much easier to stain them when they are all apart! These three are all birds.

This is not really a mask - it's a 'dance object'. It would have been hung suspended from the ceiling of the kasgiq, or community house, where the dances and storytelling took place. Some such dance objects could be raised and lowered, or made to look as if they were flying/moving. The effect was much like the stage of a play - everything was arranged to set the scene. There were masks hung on the walls, some very large masks that were suspended from the ceiling, behind which dancers would stand, maybe puller strings to open and close jaws, or make wings flap.

Although the book from which I got this piece, Ann Riordan's "Our Way of Making Prayer" identifies it as a 'thresher shark' kayak, riding upon the back of a loon, I don't think that's what either animal is. I believe the bird is a murre - a powerful diving bird that spent its time upon the ocean. Murres are black and white, as this bird is in the original. But they don't have spots, and they have a more compact, streamlined body, and shorter, thicker bill. I believe the kayak is not a 'thresher shark', but a sei whale. Sei whales are common in Arctic waters, and are the smallest of the baleen whales. They were usually gray with white splotches, and have a more streamlined appearance than the larger grey whale. In the original, this kayak/whale is white. The kayaker wears a traditional hunting hat, which were common among Kodiak Alutiiqs, and Aleuts. They were made from steam-bent wood, and decorated profusely with wave and sea-mammal and fish designs, ivory, and sea-lion or seal whiskers. Later hats were adorned with glass trade beads as well. The man holds a traditional paddle, with a leaf-shaped blade.

This is " Snowy Owl with Inua". It is a transformation mask - sporting human-like arms with almost animal-like paws. The yua, or human being is portrayed on the owl's back. You can tell it's a woman by the frown.

This piece is a "Diving Loon" mask. It's also a transformation mask, as shown by the human arms and legs. The loon was a powerful bird because of its ability to travel between the three spiritual worlds: water, air and land. The appendage to the right of the bird is an ulu blade, which is a woman's knife. There is a mate to the knife blade, not shown in this photo, which I think is a skinning or flensing knife. The two knife blades might illustrate the dual nature of shamans and all living beings - male and female.

I put the first coat of stain on these pieces tonight. Hope to have the staining done over the weekend - now that the weather's warmer, things dry much faster!

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