Behind the Masks

FairyRoom strives to make our wide and varied community feel a little smaller and a lot more connected. Our goal with this series: to seek out people who support our community in their own Fantastic way, starting with artisans and crafters whose stalls line fantasy fairs and FaerieCons — the folk who keep us in wings, fairy dust, bodices, and for-the-day elven ears and horns. Today we’d like to introduce…

Cyndy Salisbury, a self-taught mask maker, showcases her exquisitely detailed masks in her Etsy shop, The Art of the Mask. Drawing inspiration from numerous sources including nature, literature, opera, and myth, she handmakes each of her masks’ “natural” adornments – leaves, flowers, berries – from wool or parchment papers and paper clay.

We are thrilled to spotlight Cyndy and find out more about her Art of the Mask…

Please share with our readers a bit about what you do:
I am a mask maker following a time-honored craft tradition—an artist working in a historic medium to create new works, some of which are rooted in mythic traditions. I use lightweight material, papier-mâché, so my masks are all wearable, though most are well-suited for framed presentation as well.

When did your interest in fairies begin? What first inspired you?
I’ve always created art, and I’ve always been a great lover of the canons of myth and legend, as well as a voracious reader of history, speculative fiction, and the mythopoeic. I first read Tolkien and the other Inklings at university in the early 1970s, which sparked my interest in two directions: to the future (sci-fi and some fantasy) and to the past (the Mabinogion, medieval literature, and earlier pre-Christian mythologies).

In my lifetime of making art, I’ve worked in many media, but the fantastical element emerged in my work when I began mask-making about four years ago. All of those decades of reading, of absorbing the imaginative works of others—now it all informs the aesthetic I bring to my current work as a mask maker.

What inspires you now?
I will probably never stray too far from the classics. My two most recent masks are from Mozart’s Magic Flute: Papageno, the comedic sidekick and birdcatcher, and Astrofiamante, Queen of the Night. I also have a notebook filled with sketches for masks from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, yet to be realized.

Tell us about your creative process. What about your work do you enjoy most?
Because I’m self-taught, there are always technical aspects that need to be figured out. I find one of the most productive, creative times for me to quietly visualize my way through a problem or new idea is in the middle of the night during that interim between the first block of deep sleep and the last few hours of sleep before waking.

I love having an hours-long stretch of uninterrupted time in which to start a new mask. Whether that’s sitting in a still, empty house sketching out the ideas, or sculpting the clay to bring that sketch into the real world, time is the greatest luxury.

Where can we find your work? What is coming up for you?
I’m still relatively new to the art show scene and still figuring out the best venues and shows for my work. Because of the bulk involved in transporting my masks (I like to go into a show with 60 to 70 pieces, and my booth is a bit of a theater set piece), I’ve only done events within a day’s drive of home thus far.

I’m just starting to hear back from juried shows. I’ll be at the Bellevue Festival of the Arts at the end of July and hopefully a couple more shows in September and November. I usually post upcoming events at my Etsy shop and on Facebook.

Thank you, Cyndy!

Many people make great contributions to the Fantastic community every day. We couldn’t possible highlight everyone, but if you know an individual (or group) who is doing something Fantastic, please let us know!