We love Etsy, it’s filled with handmade joy. We’ve been allowed to rummage through their blog archives and share our findings with you. This month’s article is from their Short Stories series and is by mask maker Gladys Paulus.
During my years studying painting at art school in the Netherlands, some fellow students and I started up a small performance art group. I spent many hours sketching outlandish costumes and headwear. In felt, I have found a medium that allows me to translate my ideas into reality. As I am self-taught, it took some years (and two children!) to work up this point. My ultimate aspiration is to closely collaborate with artist-driven performance, dance or theatre groups. In order to demonstrate the versatility of the medium and to give a glimpse of what’s possible, I started making animal headpieces.
I have been quietly fascinated by tribal dress and masks for a long time. Dutch-Indonesian by birth, I was introduced to the visual impact of masks, costume and puppets at a young age. In Indonesian culture, masking, shadow puppetry, dance and storytelling still play an important part in the ritual of daily life. Perhaps it is in my blood, too, and has finally found a way to express itself.
To make felt is to accept a certain level of unpredictability. However much you plan in advance, the way the fibres react and interact is often a complete surprise. This unpredictability is part of its attraction to me, and it reminds me to keep a flexible attitude. When I start a new piece, I begin by visualising myself making it step by step. I plan any technical aspects such as the shrinkage rates, the shape of the template and considering which wool is best suited to the project. Different wool breeds produce felts with totally different characteristics, ranging from incredibly solid and dense, to light, ethereal and gravity-defying. I often mix different local and rare wools to achieve really exciting textures.