Monday, November 10, 2008

Sans Souci Studios At Studio Place Arts

It's beginning to feel (a little bit, anyway) like Christmas, which means it's time for the annual Celebrate Studio Place Arts Member Show! The show will run from November 18 through December 31, with the opening reception on Saturday, November 22, from 4PM to 6PM. Several of my masks will be included.

Studio Place Arts (or SPA, as it's known to its friends) — is a community center for the visual arts that has operated in Central Vermont for more than seven years. Located in a building that was once considered a "blight spot" in downtown Barre and nearly torn down, SPA now houses numerous artists' studios, holds eclectic art exhibitions and offers a wide range of arts and crafts classes to the community. For more information about SPA, please visit

Hours of operation will be:

November 18 through December 6, Tuesday through Friday 10AM to 5PM; Saturday 12PM to 4PM. (Closed for Thanksgiving, November 27)

December 8 through December 23, Tuesday through Friday 10AM to 5PM; Thursday 10AM to 8PM (late hours);Saturday 10AM to 4PM;Sunday 12PM to 4PM.

December 24, Monday, 10AM to 1PM

December 26 through December 31, Friday, 12PM to 4PM, Saturday 12PM to 4PM, Monday and Tuesday 10AM to 5PM, Wednesday 10AM to 1PM.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween At Sans Souci Studios

We geared up our Halloween celebrations this year by going to "The Enchanted Forest" at Hubbard Park in Montpelier, put on by Montpelier Parks and Recreation. This consists of tours guided by costumed characters of different kinds of performances (storytelling, dancing, etc) staged in the woods. One favorite was "The Trolls", pictured above. I really wish I knew who did these masks! Next year, I hope to participate (or rather, volunteer Brian to participate!) as either a masked guide or storyteller. I'm putting it here so you all can hold me to it!

Isabelle's Wall-E costume. Brian made the gloves, Isabelle and I painted the box, and Isabelle did the lettering, made the green buttons, and colored the mask. After being accustomed to spending twenty plus hours on a single mask, it was very strange to make this Wall-E mask in about two seconds. As in, find an image online, enlarge it to the correct size in Corel-Paint, and print it out. Viola!

I wore the unicorn mask and Brian wore his suit and clerical collar from seminary. (Scary!) Isabelle didn't think it was fair that I had a unicorn mask and Brian didn't, so she made him this one. She explained to me that you wear it by holding it up to one side of your face, so that it doesn't cover your eyes and you can see well. Interesting design!

And here we are, just about go door to door! We went with two of Isabelle's friends, Zella (dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz) and Mollie (dressed as a fairy princess) and their parents. Check out the scary graveyard in the background. This must be one of the only pictures in existence of me wearing one of my own masks.

So overall we had a good Halloween. There was the TV show, Halloween mask sales, featured spots on a couple of Etsy blogs and most importantly, fun going from door to door and getting way, way too much candy!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Five Minutes of Fame!

My masks and I were on TV! The video clip can be viewed here:

I've been letting the machine get a lot of my calls these days, thinking they're going to be those automated pre-election surveys or "important messages concerning my credit card account". Imagine my suprise when I found a message from a Channel 3 TV reporter asking to do an interview for a piece he was doing for Halloween! It aired Friday, October 17, as part of their regular "Made in Vermont" series.

The reporter and camera man came the previous Wednesday and stayed for about an hour filming and interviewing. They were very pleasant and easy to talk to, and I only felt like an idiot answering their questions about 30% of the time. It *was* a little wierd having to stick that microphone thingy down my shirt, and the fact the All Fired Up restaurant was busy burning down several blocks away *was* a little surreal. But overall I'm happy with the way the clip came out!

Check it out!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Scrutinizing Eyes II" Off to the Mold Maker

I have been working on this thing off and on for FIVE YEARS. I am so excited to get it done and have a mold made. I can hardly wait to cast up a bunch and paint them in fun colors!

A long time ago I read Karen Horney's "Neurosis and Human Growth" and brainstormed a series of masks based on the different types of neurosis she proposes. (Which are, for the record, narcissistic, perfectionistic, arrogant-vindicative, self-effacing,and resigned. In case you're interested, perfectionistic is my own particular brand.) From there, I played with the more general idea of anxiety caused by excessive self-examination and concern about the opinions of others. As in, OMG HELP THEY'RE LOOKING AT ME!!! From there, I made a Mardi Gras type mask, substituting the feathers with eyeballs.

I had imagined this to be a series of three masks, "Scrutinizing Eyes" (the mask pictured below for the open studio giveaway) being the first and this being the second. The third exists right now simply as sketches in my sketchbook. Hopefully I'll finish it in less than five years!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ear Hair

OK.... just for the record......I am so incredibly sick of.....EAR HAIR.

Maybe I should back up a little here. I have decided to try to sculpt and cast some mini-masks. I had been resistant to the idea when I was simply thinking of it as a way to add lower priced pieces to my body of work. Now it has much more appeal since I've been thinking of it as a way to try out ideas on which I may not have wanted to spend the hours and hours necessary to create a larger piece. So I started with these cat character sketches I've had knocking around ever since before I sculpted the large cat mask, "Sophia".

Above is "Nemo" in a early, rough form. The idea was for a stocky, staid British Shorthair sort of cat, one that looks a little like my brother's cat Nemo. When I first thought of this piece five years ago my brother's cat was a thoroughly middle aged sort, but now I'm afraid he's rather elderly! So this sketch began to take on a more grizzled, grandfatherly look, with the mustache, bushy eyebrows, and..... EAR HAIR.

So... I have been doing nothing but sculpting and resculpting ear hair for the past two weeks! It just refuses to cooperate! It's probably not too clear in the pics above, but they illustrate no less than FOUR different takes on ear hair. I've been driving my cats crazy following them around and looking in their ears!!


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dancing In the Streets

And here we continue with the Sans Souci Studios Summer Reading List Extravaganza!!

I love Barabara Ehrenreich, and when I heard she had written a book about the decline of community festivals (and along with them, much in the way of masking traditions) in Western culture, of course I had to read it. Here are the ideas I found the most interesting.

Ehrenriech implies that there is an inherent contradiction in human society, that it is collective by nature, but as it becomes increasingly successful, it grows larger and larger until by necessity it splits into hierarchies. Then the upper hierarchies try to suppress collectivism in general as it can foment revolution and change. Festivals (especially masked festivals!) were a prime time for people to gather and plan all sorts of mischief, so the powers that be have been trying to regulate or do away with them altogether for time immemorial.

In this context, masks are subversive. They allow anonymity. Masks allow people to step out of their prescribed roles. They allow men to be women, beggars to be kings. Masks, through estatic ritual, possession, and trance (now how are those for scary words!) can afford practitioners direct contact with their gods, as opposed to through "belief" and "faith", or through the indirect mediation of priests. Masks by their very nature can defy the social order.

Now I really want to run off and catch the next performance of Bread and Puppet!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Masks Tell Stories

This summer I read a great book about masks, "Masks Tell Stories", by Carol Gelber. It's aimed at older children, but it was thought-provoking for this middle-aged adult, too.

The most interesting thought that occurred to me after reading it was: Masks help make abstract ideas concrete, and bring them a place where they can be physically dealt with. With the aid of masks, ancestor spirits can walk among their people and remind them of the values of their community, and perhaps of the consequences of not being mindful of them. They can teach, protect, and discipline the children of the community. With the aid of masks, benevolent spirits can be cajoled for what a community needs and desires- good luck, good weather, good health, etc and chaotic spirits can be chased away. With the aid of masks, the spirit of the community, the place, or the time itself can become embodied and celebrated, such as we see now with Mardi Gras or Halloween.

However, with the overriding mind-body dualism of this Western culture (mind is good, body is bad) I imagine the idea of making an abstract idea concrete is viewed with much suspicion. Why ruin a perfectly good idea by embodying it? While I'm not advocating (say, for instance) foregoing modern medicine and returning to masked ritual to cure illness and so on, I do often wonder what our culture's dualism has caused us to throw away and lose.

In any case, I sincerely hope I will be able to explore these ideas more thoroughly in future work. Stay posted!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Sans Souci Studios Etsy Store!

The Etsy store is to replace my eBay store, which I have shut down. The fees on eBay were killing me! My eBay sales were covering the fees and nothing more. The fees on Etsy are much, much more reasonable. Once in a while, however, I may post a mask test or second on eBay, and will mention it here when I do.

Have fun looking around the new store!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mask Drawing Winner!

Renee Krug is the winner in the Open Studios drawing for the purple eye mask! Renee visited during the Open Studios weekend and signed up for a free suscription to our maskmaking blog. Thank you Renee and enjoy your mask!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Open Studios Mask Giveaway!

We are giving away this mask to celebrate our participation in the Vermont Crafts Council Open Studios Weekend! All you need to do to for a chance to win is sign up for a free Feedburner suscription to our blog. Enter your email address in the Feedburner widget on the left, confirm your suscription in the email Feedburner will send you, and you're good to go! (If you are already a suscriber, you are entered automatically, you need to do nothing more.) We will draw the name of one suscriber at random on Sunday, June 15th, 2008, and send them this mask completely free and postage paid! There are no purchases necessary and you can have your name removed from the suscriber list at any time, just email us with your request. Good luck!

Welcome to the 2008 Sans Souci Studios Virtual Tour!

As many of you already know, Sans Souci Studios will be participating in the Vermont Crafts Council Open Studio Weekend this year on May 24 and May 25. We realize many of you will not be able to make it all the way to Vermont, so we created this blog entry and video so you could join us online!

Here we are, me, my husband Brian Wightman, and my daughter Isabelle, cheerfully waiting to greet you by the door! (No, I don't remember what was so funny. I promise it wasn't you.)

Here are the two part time studio assistants, Skimble and Teaze, looking up to greet you as you come in (or at least, to see who disturbed thier nap!)

And here is our lovely abode. Sans Souci Studios is located in our home in Barre, VT, in a room that measures about 11 1/2' long, 9 1/2' wide, and 8' high. Have a look around, let me know if you have any questions and enjoy your visit!

First Unicorn Mask Completed!

I've been working on this thing for a better part of a year. Part of the hangup was how to attach this somewhat oddly shaped mask to the wearer's head. I did a lot of experimentation buying and making hoods onto which to Velcro the mask, but found I needed to add straps to the base of the skull to tighten the hood for smaller-headed wearers. So I figured, if straps were needed anyway, why not just skip the hood?

So I went through a lot of gyrations just to be reminded of three basic principles of mask fit, which I was told practically first thing when I started making masks.

1) The mask must rest on the "third eye" of the wearer's head, at a point in the middle of the forehead a little bit above the eyebrows.

2) The straps must fasten at the wearer's temples.

3) The straps must tighten at the base of the wearer's skull.

The black browband I added underneath the mask allows the mask to meet all these requirements. It's also much cooler than the hood, fits more snugly, and makes the mask easier to get on and off.

So now I have a bunch of black vinyl Japanese Zentai hoods laying around I don't need anymore. Fetish clothing, to be exact. Maybe I can unload them on eBay, and let all those friendly neighborhood pervs drive up the traffic at my store.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

This About Sums It Up

It's been a really long winter. The weather has been horrible. There's literally been a snowstorm every three days for the past two months. This past week was the first week Isabelle has had since December without a school cancellation or delayed opening. So needless to say, I'm not getting a lot of work done.

I keep plugging away on finding a good way to attach the unicorn mask to its hood, and have rediscovered in the process that Velcro can only be sewn, not glued, on just about any substance. Forget special glues or extra strength Stitch Witchery. Well, one small exception here- industrial strength self adhesive Velcro will stick to vinyl, but since I haven't yet found a way to glue vinyl to anything else, I'm not sure this discovery is particularly useful. Oh yeah, and industrial strength self adhesive vinyl will also stick to polyester ribbon, but this isn't useful either- the Velcro will shred the ribbon in about five seconds trying to fasten and unfasten the straps. Bleah. I keep hoping to find a way to glue or stick Velcro to straps, because I can't sew to save my life. I usually manage to con Brian into doing all the sewing for me.

Believe it or not, Isabelle was laughing her head off all through the above photo session! She's a great actress, isn't she? Not to mention patient and helpful with the masks!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sans Souci Studios Supporting eBay Boycott

Sans Souci Studios will be supporting the eBay boycott from Monday, February 18 until Monday, February 25. I have closed the store for the week and will be listing no new auctions during this time.

If you don't already know, the boycott is in response to 1)increased seller fees (from 10% to 12% of the final value of an item sold through eBay stores) 2)the holding of seller's Paypal fees for 21 days in some circumstances and 3)the inability for sellers to leave negative feedback for buyers anymore.

I have asked eBay representatives under what specific circumstances Paypal payment will be held for 21 days, and I was told this is not yet clear. Where it will be harshest will be for small sellers with less than 100 lifetime feedback ratings. This creates a circumstance in which these small sellers have to ship the item without being paid for it, covering the shipping expenses out of pocket, and if the buyer initiates a chargeback during this time (claiming fraudulently "the item was not as described" etc), the seller could potentially be without the item, the payment and without a way of leaving negative feedback for the buyer, no recourse.

Sans Souci Studios is unlikely to be effected by this directly, but I don't know if I can personally support these policies. I'm taking a wait and see attitude myself, and checking out other possibilities for sales listings in the meantime.

Stay tuned, and I hope you support the boycott! No buying or selling on eBay from February 18 until February 25!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mask Hairing Demonstration

While I was getting this cutie ready for eBay, it occured to me I could snap some pictures and give a demonstration of my current method for hairing a mask. (This mask is available at auction on eBay until March 15, cheap because it's a materials test and too heavy to wear.)

Equipment and materials needed: Wefted and perhaps bulk Kanekalon hair in choice of colors; glue (I use a tacky white craft glue, others I've spoken to prefer hot glue); cotton swabs; wax paper; sharp scissors, a pencil, and a small container of water.

More on hair. I can imagine people out there scratching their heads and going, "wefted??" Essentially that means the hair is sewn onto long strips, which makes it much, much easier to apply. I've purchased just about all of my hair from African-American beauty supply shops, where it is sold as 'hair extensions'. I use the bulk hair for areas where I don't want the weft to show, ie, at and near hairlines, although I also use hair that has been cut from the weft on another mask during a bang trim or such. So far I have only found this hair to be available wholesale, so a wholesaler's number is needed to purchase it. However it is possible to buy repackaged (?) bulk hair for a somewhat greater cost from

So essentially I divide areas to hair into three parts: the back of the mask, where I can use the wefted hair; an area roughly 2 or 3 inches away from the hairline where I will glue loose hair; and any actual hairline itself, for which I will construct a little 'hairpiece'.

Here we see the mask looking something like a tonsured monk, with about half the wefted hair applied. Applying wefted hair is easy peasy. First I cut the weft to appropriate lengths. Then starting at the back of the mask and working forward, I apply a bead of glue to the weft and apply it in rows approximately 1 - 1 1/2 inches apart. Sometimes I'll need the hold the ends of the weft down for a few minutes until the glue starts to set, or worse comes to worst I'll reglue the ends down after the rest of it has dried.

In this picture I have applied all the wefted hair and am now gluing on loose hair. To hide the weft, which is convenient but rather ugly, I switch from the wefted hair to the loose hair about three inches or so from the hairline. I apply a bead of glue to the mask, and then I pick up small (about 1 inch wide) and thin handfuls of hair, trim the edge square with a sharp pair of scissors, and lay it down into the glue. Then I press it down using a damp cotton swab. When the swab starts getting too gluey and the hair starts sticking to it instead of to the mask, I throw it away and get another. It helps to have a small container of water and a big pile of swabs nearby before starting this task.

I am more likely to err on the side of making the handfuls of hair too thick instead of too thin. Too thick, and most of the hair will not stick in the glue, it will just come loose and make a mess. It is almost impossible to err on the side of making the handfuls too thin.

I make the rows closer together with the loose hair than I do with the wefted hair, about 1/2" apart. The loose hair has to be applied more thinly, so the rows need to be placed more closely together to cover adequately.

Above are a series of pics showing the creation of a hairline. I usually do this part first, before I do anything else with the hair on a mask, so that the pieces have time to dry and will be ready by the time I need them.

(First pic.) I trace the hairline with a pencil on a piece of wax paper, lay down a line of glue, and then press loose hair into the glue using a damp cotton swab. Again, if the swab starts to get too sticky, and the hair wants to stick to it instead of the glue, I throw it out and start with another. I let this dry until the glue is clear (usually overnight) and then (second pic) trim along the pencil line. After this I (third pic) very carefully peel the finished hairpiece from the wax paper, and (fourth pic) glue it in place.

Above is a pic of the nearly finished hairline in the front of the mask as well.

After the glue has dried overnight, I comb out the loose hair (there is always a lot of loose hair, don't worry too much about any shedding at this point) and then trim and style if I so desire. I put any big hanks of trimmed hair in a ziplock baggie to save for future hairing projects, and then to tone down any shininess, I color over the dried glue on the hairline with acrylic paint or a matching Sharpie.

There it is! Any questions, please feel free to drop me a note at!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sans Souci Studios Joins Vermont Crafts Council

Sans Souci Studios has finally joined The Vermont Crafts Council, which most importantly means that we plan to participate in the Vermont Open Studio Weekend, Saturday and Sunday May 24th and 25th, or in other words Memorial Day Weekend. Mark your calendars!

We are also included in their very nifty website: Here's a direct link to our page:

Dang, yet another graphic-less blog entry. I tried to download the very spiffy Vermont Crafts Council logo to post, but Windows Vista is incompatible with their version of Adobe Reader, as it is incompatible with about every other known program in the universe. For more about the joys of Windows Vista, please visit my husband Brian's blog: and If nothing else, Windows Vista is fun to complain about.