Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Commission Work

I didn't take vacation all summer - except the odd Friday off to make a long weekend. So as summer's end crept up on me, I decided to take the first week of September off - since my birthday falls in this week as well. So I've been off since last Friday - not a vacation to travel to any exotic locale - but a vacation nonetheless.

Earlier this summer, one of the managers in my office commissioned me to do some pieces for her office. Specifically, she wants a wall that will instantly take her to the ocean. I've spent much of my time off this past week working on the pieces for this installation. It's a long wall - around 15 feet, and about 4 feet above the tops of some cabinets that will be transformed into the sea. We can't paint the walls, so I decided I'd cut three large panels of birch plywood and stain them for a background for the masks. Each panel will feature a large mask, with some smaller pieces. The first piece I've completed carving is the "King Salmon" (two views below):

The piece hasn't been stained yet. It is dry-assembled here. The big salmon will be blue/black with a white belly. The hoops won't be stained. The long fin-like appendages will be white with a red groove. The smaller fish riding on the appendages will be blue with white bellies. The assembled mask is about 22" long and 18" wide (from the tip of one of the long narrow 'fins' to the other). The story behind the mask is that it represents the King of the Salmon - who 'herds' all of the other fish up the river so the people can catch them, and the fish will be plentiful.

To create the undersea feel, the larger masks will be accompanied by 'Jellyfish' masks and 'Bubbles', below:

These are small pieces - the largest is about 4 inches across, the smallest about 1.5" across. The top row of 'Jellyfish' will be white, with red insets. The 'Bubbles', bottom row, are blue, white and red. The jellyfish are meant to have three white feathers, as do the bubbles, but I may only put feathers on some of them.

The second larger mask, which I finished today, is a hair seal. I haven't taken a picture of it yet. The third large piece will be my original mask - an octopus. That is the only piece my client specified, along with fish and sea animals. She just wants to look at her wall and feel like she's been transported to the ocean.

This is a challenging project. I've never done an installation of masks before. It's quite different from making a collection of pieces that can each stand on their own. But it is fun to work on - and since I'm a child of the sea myself - having grown up on an island - it is easy in many respects for me to imagine the effect and how to achieve it.


Blogger Donna Menke said...

Jackie, this work is amazing. You have such an imaginations- and you are such a craftsman. You are gifted. Donna

5:52 AM  
Blogger Elderberrystudio said...

Donna: thank you! Well - the imagination part isn't all mine with these traditional pieces. I work primarily from photographs of the original masks that have been published in about 1/2 dozen books. I have seen the real thing in museum exhibits as well. Of course, I am using modern tools and some modern materials (especially glue and stain) that make my task easier.

It really connects me with my ancestors, to recreate these masks and carvings. It is a spiritual connection - with the invisible world that my ancestors lived in, as well as the physical world - the ocean, the air, and the earth, with all the beings that inhabit it.

9:06 PM  

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