Brown and green mask that's shaped like a stylized bird skull. Curved antlers come out the side of its head.

Primary materials: Cloth, glue, tape, aluminum foil, armature wire, acrylic paint, artificial shrubs and grass.

I made this for Alyssa Kate Adriance of Visual Shift Art Studio in Pawtucket, RI. The studio space has a lot of moss and air plants in it, and they sparked the initial inspiration, as well as setting the overall tone for this piece. Alyssa wanted the mask to be animalistic, non-human, bird-like perhaps with owl eyes, and have big horns or branches. It also needed to be light enough to hang on a wall without too much trouble.

Though this isn’t the first mask I’ve made that can be hung on a wall, it’s the first one I’ve made specifically for that purpose. As such it is not designed to be wearable.

I started by making a version of this with six tree-like “branch-antlers.” The overall face wasn’t too much bigger than it is here, but I quickly realized that the six antlers, kept in proportion to the face, made for something that might be too big for the space. Some emails discussing dimensions confirmed this.

So I restarted the project. Because of the materials I used, it wasn’t practical to make a smaller version of the exact same design, so by shrinking the mask I also needed to alter its anatomy. (If you’re wondering why, it’s because bending wires and layering cloth and glue is hard to scale down beyond a certain point.)

Closeup of mask from left angle. Various mossy textures are visible, along with many shades of brown and green.

Once I actually got this thing going it was fairly straight forward to build up the general design. The biggest engineering challenges were related to keeping it light yet strong, making sure the antlers wouldn’t sag over time, and attaching it to the wall in a simple and low-impact way. By now I’ve made enough cloth and glue masks that I was able to figure this stuff out without getting stuck.

Now, the whole original point and inspiration of this mask was moss. In a sense all the work I put into it until the moss went on was preparation. My first plan was to glue a lot of actual moss to the sculpture. But I had never worked with moss before, so I bought a bunch of it and did various experiments with different glues on a test object to see how it would react, and what it would look like when attached to something.

After spending quite a bit of time, I determined that the moss would just cover up most of the mask, and it would look like it was moss glued onto a separate sculpture. When the whole idea was to come up with something that looked more organically mossy.

Closeup of right front of mask. Various mossy textures are visible, along with many shades of brown and green.
Top view. Mask has a deeply ridged forehead with moss in the valleys, giving it a mountainous appearance.

So, what now? I had left the lower part of the face pretty blank in the construction phase because I figured I was going to fill it in with moss! I ended up using a combination of artificial powdered “grass” and “shrubs” made for model train environments. Again something I had never worked with before.

This ended up taking a lot of time because each shrub is about a quarter of an inch long, and needed to be glued on individually, and I had a couple of feet to cover with them.

I’m happy to say that it was a hit at the studio when I brought it over. I’d like to thank Alyssa for taking some snazzy pictures of the mask for me. You can check out her website here.