Original ceramic masks – one of a kind wall art and prototype pendants.
Masks have always possessed a certain air of mystery that has fascinated people for centuries. Legend tells us that at ancient Greek festivals in honor of Dionysus, the god of theater, actors began wearing very large masks. Because the structures used to present the plays were so colossal, these masks bore exaggerated expressions so the actors could convey to their immense 25,000+ audiences different emotions and reactions. When the Romans conquered Greece, they adopted the Grecian love of theater, and the use of masks in celebrations and plays passed through Europe by way of their massive empire.
Currently based in St. Helena California, Peggy Bjerkan is primarily involved in the creation of unique ceramic masks that have an amusing quality about them as some reflect popular English idioms, catch phrases and proverbs . Some allude to more serious human conditions, but in their quirky animated style, they always seem to convey a striking presence and flair.
How Peggy describes her mask journey…
“I started making masks a few years ago as a result of my fascination with masks as ritual objects. This interest continues to grow and evolve as time goes on. The masks have become (for me) a commentary on life and the human condition. Although my masks are not wearable and, therefore, not used in traditional ways, I hope that they have the power to communicate ideas. I especially like to emphasize humor, wit and irony in my pieces and I hope that the masks are able to speak for themselves.”
“Some of you may wonder why I’m putting so much energy into the making of masks. Well, after years of being a maker of many different things, I finally began to dabble in masks (inspired by my own collection of masks from around the world). It dawned on me, after the first few that I made, that a path was opening up before me. I knew that I didn’t want to copy foreign masks or even to borrow ideas from them. I did want to be a part of the mask tradition. Thus began my journey. Very early on, around 1998, I decided that I would make “American” masks with contemporary ideas – my contribution to the tradition. After a while, the masks became more and more personal which seemed a natural progression. I continue making them with the hope that some of the ideas I present are universal.”
“I use several methods to form my masks. My favorite is to sculpt over a hump (a built-up surface). I form each piece with earthenware clay and then carve it back to bring out and define the details. Sometimes I will make a mold of one of these pieces. I use the molds as starting points for new masks: either pressing soft clay into them or slipcasting. Each mask is then altered and further sculpted to become a unique piece. When the masks are completely dry – from 2 days to 3 weeks – I paint them with underglazes and fire them to cone 04. Some pieces are painted with other glazes and fired again. When all firing is completed, I use colored gessoes, acrylics and Prismacolor pencils to define the features. One to four coats of varnish are then applied. At this point, many pieces get some type of “mixed media” addition: I like to make “hair” out of my own hand-painted silk cords or bits of wire or leather. Lately, I’ve been having fun using driftwood and river stones and I sculpt many small clay parts to help each mask tell its story.”
This mask came to be as a result of my uncertainties about changes in my processes and materials. While at the Institute of Ceramic Studies in Shigaraki, Japan in 2003, I was truly at the mercy of the Fire Gods! Besides using a much higher firing clay, I also had to adjust my glazes to fit. As a result, I spent a lot of time holding my breath and crossing my fingers. It was during this period that “A Wing and a Prayer” was born. From Peggy’s blog..http://the-maskwoman.blogspot.com
‘A Change Of Heart’
Extract from Peggy’s 0…..I was going to post another altered photo today but I had a “change of heart” and decided to let this mask out for an airing ( see above ). I created this piece a couple years ago – and I still have it. For some reason, the times I’ve shown the mask, it has gotten very little attention (even with the moving, changeable doors which everyone usually loves). Perhaps the message is just too obvious! Anyway, until she connects with the right home, I get to enjoy her in mine…..
‘Mind Games 2’
‘Secret Inside 2’
‘All the King’s Horses’
‘Rising above it all’
‘Curiouser and Curiouser—this one’
‘Off On a Tangent’
‘Bird in the hand 2’