Recently I reached out to the Potter’s Guild of NJ to see if I could find a local potter to participate in my Hands On project. The response was overwhelming, so I began to see if I could find a variety of pottery subjects and techniques to feature on my blog. One of the Potter’s Guild members who reached out was Leslie Jacobsen, a mask artist. Her masks are conceived as wall art rather than for function – you wouldn’t wear them to a masquerade ball.
Leslie and I caught up in early November so I could observe her process and capture her at work. As has been the case with most of the Hands On artists I’ve met this year, Leslie has repurposed a space in her home to work on her art. A room in her basement has been set aside to work on and display her creations. All of Leslie’s pieces are the result of her imagination and are hand shaped. She works with a piece of clay and adds features until a unique character emerges. Sometimes she adds a texture to the clay before working on the facial features. She uses a variety of materials to add the textures, and is always on the lookout for unique fabrics or other materials to use as a pattern. In the image below, she is using a crocheted table doily to add a pattern to the clay:
The masks are fired twice, similar to other pottery: once after the mask is sculpted and dried, which brings it to a "bisque" stage and then again after she has glazed the mask. Below are some images capturing her process. The first 5 images are demonstrating her sculpting the raw clay, and the final two images show her glazing and the final product, a fired mask from another of Leslie's creations.
Leslie has been making masks for ten years, but her interest in art can be traced back to her mother, who she describes as an artistic woman who painted, sculpted, and designed and sewed clothing. When in college, Leslie studied art and art history, and originally practiced sculpture. After many years without an artistic pursuit, she was inspired to create masks when she saw the works of a couple of artists who made masks from dried gourds and embellished them with things like beads, leather and feathers. Leslie indicated that the unique personalities and whimsy of the masks appealed to her.
Over the years, Leslie has participated in a number of exhibits and shows in the Morristown, NJ area. Some examples of her work are below. She will also be participating in a Holiday Arts and Crafts show at the National Guard Armory in Morristown, NJ on December 11-13, 2015 if you want to see her work in person. I’d like to thank Leslie for allowing me to follow her process with my camera. I encourage everyone to follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/artmasksbyLeslieJacobsen?.