Explore Your Personas and Come to Know Yourself More Deeply
The Benefits of Mask-Work
Mask-Work opens us to the many layers of our psyche in a fun, creative, and safe way. Mask-making develops our artistic skills, stimulates our imagination, develops self-awareness, and promotes positive healing in our lives. It gets us to see that we are multi-faceted and complex beings and that our many personas and life experiences (including traumas) can be used as fertile soil for the imagination to flourish.
Art therapy is a technique rooted in the idea that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being. Making art helps us explore emotions, cope with stress, boost self-esteem and work on social skills. It gives us the opportunity to consider ourselves as artists and our lives as novels. How exciting is that? Imagine taking the most insecure, wounded, fragile part of yourself and transforming these aspects into beauty, comedy, wisdom, and love. Our so-called weakness becomes our strengths and shifts our perceptions. The act of creating opens our energy channels and transforms pain and old conditioning in our psyche into empowering insight, happiness, and well-being. Eventually, we are able to step back from the subjective nature of our experiences and become the witness. This is freedom!
What is Mask-Work?
Mask-Work is a form of expressive art whereby a three-dimensional, wearable, papier-mache face is created and its character is explored and brought to life with a voice, physicalization, personality, and psychology. The purpose of making the mask is multi-faceted, but mostly we make it to express and explore our own inner personas. The mask becomes an extension of the one who creates it.
Mask-Work opens us to the many facets of our being which enables us to dive deep into our stories, our traumas, our beliefs, our strengths and vulnerabilities, and our inherent wisdom. The purpose of expressive arts (as opposed to making art as a commodity), is to delve into process- not product. We do this in a safe, creative, playful, and meaningful way. We may not always find it easy to befriend and express ourselves, but doing so through a mask can be exciting, endearing, hilarious, and revealing.
Although masks are ubiquitous in art therapy, there is often some confusion as to their purpose. Are they meant to hide or protect some aspect of ourselves? Do they help us uncover and discover parts of ourselves that are repressed? Do they exaggerate our personalities giving us permission to be larger than life? I would say "yes" to all these questions but most importantly, the role of the mask is to reveal. It gives us permission to act out scenarios and say what we need to say. When we put on the mask, there is no holding back! So while we may sometimes hide behind a mask, mask-work (as a form of art therapy) helps us to step out from the shadow and into the light! Remember that what we often hide from others is our brilliance, our humor, our wisdom, and our talent, so in this regard, mask-work is a modality used to step into our power and celebrate ourselves.
Another very important aspect of mask-work is using these "alter egos" to engage in deep conversation with ourselves. When we create a mask, the mask becomes an aspect of us. Having a conversation with the mask is the same as having a conversation with ourselves. But because the mask is external and somewhat theatrical, it is easier to engage in dialogue with the mask. This is where a skilled coach/expressive arts facilitator (like myself) can guide you into unchartered territory and shed light on the parts of the self that are unconscious. Whether you are working with your mask or one that I made, you can engage in the mask work and learn more about yourself in order to heal, grow, overcome, and get empowered.
Weekend Workshop (next date TBA): This workshop runs all day both Saturday (10 am-5 pm) and Sunday (10 am-4 pm). We gather in a beautiful studio setting (in Guelph or elsewhere) where I will take the group through the process of mask creation and character development. All art materials are included. Some of the workshop themes I offer are Courage Masks, Goddess Masks, Grief Masks, Clown/Trickster Masks, Animal Totem Masks, Protector Masks, and Spirit Guide Masks.
Cost: $350 (materials included)
Six-Week Program: This multi-themed, online workshop takes place over six weeks. The final, culminating activity is mask-making and character development. For more information, click here.
Unmasking Session: Choose one of my masks that you are most drawn to, put it on and sit in front of a mirror. I will guide you through a series of character development instructions and questions. These sessions are powerful experiences whereby you (the client) surrender your personal character and allow the wisdom of the mask to come through in order to help you better understand a situation in your life. These 1 hour-long sessions are experienced in person usually at my studio in Guelph (although I can also come to you. We will need access to an open, private room and a large mirror).
Used for protection, disguise, entertainment, and ritual practices, the earliest use of masks (700 B.C.) was for religious and shamanic rituals and ceremonies.
The tradition of theatre masks goes back to the ancient Greeks, who used masks both for practical needs and dramatic performances. They were also used in commedia dell'arte (Italian theatre), and Japanese theatre and have a long history in almost every culture throughout the world. Masks can be beautiful or grotesque, but they are always evocative.
The use of masks is varied and unique and can be found on the theatre stage, in the artist's studio, in a religious rite of passage, or in a therapeutic environment. Psychodrama, for example, uses a dramatic approach to artistically and skillfully "play out" certain scenes in a person's life through role-playing, enactment, impersonation, and improvisation. In this environment, masks can be used for the purpose of assisting people in dealing with different (often traumatic) aspects of their lives.
Ultimately, masks illuminate what lies beneath the surface and help us realize that we are complex personas born out of fortunate and unfortunate life circumstances. By bringing these disconnected aspects of self into the light and playfully animating them (acting them out), deep healing, understanding, and self-acceptance can occur. So if you are open and ready to dive into your creativity and befriend what dwells "beneath the mask", let's play!
Welcome to My Cast of Characters!
I am a mask maker and sacred clown. When I make a mask and develop its character, it becomes an aspect of myself. Each mask is an extension of my personas. Each of them is unique and each has a certain "flavor" and personality. I love them all as they are my wise and wacky friends and teachers. I confide in them and ask them for advice on a regular basis. They make me laugh, cry and fall in love. They offer me beauty, insight, courage, and humor. I refer to them as "sacred clowns" because they are truth-tellers, they are child-like, they are wise gurus and they are ubiquitous shit disturbers.
They are created with papier-mache, mixed media, and acrylic paint. Once completed, I put the mask on, sit in front of a mirror, look into my own eyes and delve into a dialogue. I ask questions like- Who are you? What do you want? Where do you live? What is your message for Barbara? I take the mask into a breath, a sound, a word or sentence, a gesture, and a gait (walk). I put my own character and ego aside and I let the mask emerge in a unique way.
Eventually, I sit in front of a camera and let the masks say what it wants to say. To my surprise, they offer me guidance and advice. They are wise and loving and sometimes ruthless with me. They are an endless source of creativity, expression, and self-exploration.
While none of the masks on my website are for sale, I am happy to create one for you and/or provide a mask and characterization workshop for small groups of people (which typically take place over the span of a weekend).
Please remember that masks are tools for therapeutic work. They serve to reveal truths and insights about the wearer and the human condition. Some masks are serious, some are playful, some are tragic, some are light, some are ruthless and some are quirky. But ALL are a reflection of the human experience so wear and explore masks at your own risk!
Click on the images below, or go directly to my YouTube channel
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Red-Neck Jerk Mask
Stand In Your Female Power Mask
Speak Your Truth Mask
Forest Forger and Earth Goddess Mask
Seek Meaning From Your Dreams Mask
Look at Life From the Higher Perspective Mask
Ancient Cave Bear Meditation Teacher Mask
Sacred Clown- Seeing Beneath the Mask
Follow Your Heart Mask
Goddess of the Sun Mask
Spirit Guide Mask
Express Yourself Through Art Mask
Dementia- Letting Go Of Your Identity Mask
Dig Into Your Experiences Mask
Water Goddess Mask
Group making their masks.
Creating characters by asking questions and listening to the masks.
Creating papier mache masks.
Dialogue with the masks.
Getting the mask moving through space.
Dialogue with the masks.