Art is a Continuum. This page is dedicated to examining Ann's linear design process, from her client's first encounter with life casting and the possibilities this art form offers, to the final completion of a work of art from their features.
When a client first sees Masquerade Life Casting's diverse display of masks and body castings, it can be overwhelming, and in many instances they do not know what they are looking at. Unlike a jeweler or clothier or potter, this is not a craft that is ubiquitous in the arts and crafts movement, nor is this art commonly seen at many fairs and festivals.
To further complicate the matter, rarely are any of the examples on display for sale. These are solely samples of the coloration and stylization in finished decorating themes. Finally, unless you have been searching for this artistic medium for yourself or a loved one, the idea of having your portrait created in this way can be thought provoking.
When a client decides to have their portrait made the first step is to make the "initial" casting with medical grade plaster gauze bandages. This is the vehicle by which any of Ann's finished works are begun.
When Jana saw Ann's work, she was visiting the Maryland Renaissance Festival for one weekend from half way across the country. The "Secret Garden" MasterWork resonated with her and she knew exactly what she wanted in a finished work. Due to Jana's schedule, there was only a 24 hour window in which to make this initial cast. Ann adjusted her schedule to create a window of opportunity that could work for them both.
The actual time needed to make the casting was about 17 minutes. The process of eliciting exactly what she wanted in her finished artwork took much longer. Here, what Jana wanted was completely different from anything Masquerade had ever created. Henna designs, cut-outs, light holes and handmade wings all contributed to the "conversation" she and Ann had that spanned several months in determining how the finished portrait would be brought to life.
The diverse elements involved in creating the stylization desired had to be balanced carefully to achieve an artwork that could transcend the here and now, to become a work of art for the ages.
A face casting by itself can be used several times to make up to 10 or 15 separate masks, even a body casting is reusable if there are no major undercuts. With the style of casting for this piece, Ann had one chance to use the casting and then because of undercuts the mould would be destroyed in the process. In this instance to insure that she had grasped what it was that Jana wanted, Ann made a mock-up of what the final work could look like. Using a spare plaster gauze mould, she then made a partial back casting using all of the flourishes requested in the commissioned artwork. Images of this were shown to Jana to get her input into needed changes for the final work.
Next the work itself had to be started. Ann had one opportunity to make this piece, if anything went wrong in the drying, firing or glazing processes she would have to start over from the beginning, in this case, that would be recasting Jana. The slab of clay to make a body casting like this is 2 feet wide by 4 feet long, and requires two people to hold it up while at the same time folding it slowly into the "initial" mould. At this time the artwork is inverted and the casting is cradling the slab of clay. For the next 24 hours this is how the work will stay. The clay is much heavier than the plaster gauze mould and the mould must be propped and secured against the weight with pillows and supports.
At the end of 24 hours the clay has dried to "leather hard", a point where it is stiff yet still malleable. The body must be flipped and the plaster gauze mould removed. This is somewhat akin to trying to push a cooked noodle. The wet clay wants to abide by gravity and slump, the job at hand is to insure that the clay is sufficiently propped with buffering, but can still dry evenly. If thinner parts of the sculpture dry too quickly, the clay will crack and split. The arms, hands and hair are the critical points to watch.
It is also at this time that any clay decorations are sculpted into the work. Here the henna was carved into the clay body to give it depth when glazed. The hair is added and any fantasy adornments are created.
It takes about seven days of constant monitoring to dry the piece safely. The clay loses all of it's excess water and becomes "bone" dry. Any clean up is now done, smoothing of rough areas and removing any imperfections in the work. It is important to look over the work from all angles in different light because once the work is "bisqued", it is what it is.
Taking a kiln full of greenware to vitrification is a 12 to 17 hour process. The clay must be fired slowly so that it will not blow up through uneven heating. This is the bisque firing, in which the clay body reaches vitrification, that is becomes like glass.
The next step in the creation of any of Ann's work is the glazing. Ceramic glaze is a silica, water and mineral based mixture that is fired in the kiln to the requisite temperature to produce a heat and chemical reaction that manifests as coloration, and then melts into a glass-like substance with the "bisqued" clay.
Ann's low-fire glazes do this metamorphosis between 1900 and 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. The colors she uses are in an underglaze form. Most of the artworks shown on this web site have been then fired once more with a clear overglaze, either one that produces a matt or a glossy finish coat.
After the final kiln firing, comes the last stage of design. Mixed media additions to the clay sculpture, if the client has specified, are now created and intentionally placed on the work. Here, to better create the illusion of a spryte, wings and antennae have been fabricated and applied. Hardened fabric is draped low across the form in a flowing fashion to add to the fantasy of the art work.
The last stage of development for this work is the inclusion of interior lighting to highlight the decorative holes that were cut into the work in the first step of production. Light illuminates out from the back and through the hand which holds a glowing orb.
While the example on this page is of a more ornate custom order, the same process is involved in any original design. To be sure, numerous artworks displayed in this web site began as a custom orders.
Many of Ann's orders are variations on artworks on display through out this web site or from her portfolios. There are however, several orders every show that challenge Ann's artistic abilities, either as a completely unique design or a variation on another work. Discovering how a person envisions themselves, or how they would want to be presented to the world is an art all in itself. An art that is almost as challenging as creating a custom life casting. Rising above these challenges to create a unique artwork commissioned for someone brings a satisfaction of accomplishment.
She would not have it any other way.