Friday, November 11, 2011


For the past two years I have done a special piece for Hallowe'en, which is also Samhain (saw-wun) in the Celtic/Wiccan calendar. It is believed that on this night the boundary between living and dead souls is very permeable and that we are able to communicate with those who have departed to realms beyond. My research says that since not all spirits were benevolent the Gaelic custom of wearing costumes and masks was an attempt to copy the evil spirits and ward them off, also achieved by hollowing out and carving large turnips with faces and placing them in windows with candles within. I imagined a piece to evoke these “haints” based on Ray Bradbury's classic short story “Something Wicked This Way Comes”.

I had already envisioned a pendant, a sort of tribal design with mini-wings and wire-wrapping but decided to add a face. I've never done faces but I have altered commercial face molds so I started with that. The result was interesting but my little man wasn't at all scary! I had added some pieces of other texture molds to his face and he looked kind of Mayan--not the look I was going for.

My sister was here visiting from Berkeley last week. She had taken a class with the legendary performance artist, Sha Sha Higby, where they made several jewelry-sized masks in some sort of plastic/resin. So we copied them using the RTV mold stuff I love, Alley Goop. Then we made some faces in polymer clay and some in resin. I liked the results but since they weren't my own original designs, I kept going.

Sha Sha Higby molds, done by me in polymer and antiqued

Even before I worked in polymer clay, I had notebooks for my fiber ideas and drawings of outfits and textile techniques. The most potent design trick I know is to revisit my old sketchbooks and mine them for idea gold. And so I found myself searching in them for some pictures I drew of the avenging Morrigu--a triad of goddesses of war and death,  from the Celtic epic poem, the Táin Bó Cúailnge. (It's a fascinating story and there's a very good fictionalization of it by Greg Frost if you're not into heroic poetry).

The Morrigu, from the Táin - from my notebooks, circa 1996

My original idea was to hook a large tapestry rug illuminating scenes from the epic and I had made some sketches in preparation. They were scary and primal and came right out of some dark place in my imagination where humankind holds a terror of avenging spirits. I decided that a face based on these spirits would be perfect for my Something Wicked. After free-sculpting the face in polymer, I painted it with Genesis heat-set oil paints.

Something Wicked This Way Comes - detail

I pulled the face and the base together with some coiled Whim-Z Wire, patinated it and chemically bonded the whole assembly to a long piece of mammoth fossil bone. Now I can stand it up in a corner of the window facing my bench.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Hope your Hallowe'en wasn't haunted by something this scary-- in terms of evil spirits or calories from too much trick-and-treating!


  1. This is a fantastic work from your imagination! Thank you for the detailed description of your process. I really enjoy that, seeing you work ...without being there!

  2. Wow. The way you translate inspirations into your art is surely impressive. I love this. I will share it with a friend who loves this sort of thing. And "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is truly one of my favorite books. I used to teach it to my 7th grade lit classes.
    Enjoy the day!

  3. Oh Christine,
    Firstly - the drawing is fantastic! Do you have more of that kind. You could sell prints. Or originals. Perhaps you already do.
    Secondly - I'm generally not attracted to any scary or haunted-type imagary or story-telling. But something about that figure of yours really appeals to me. I think maybe it might be that I also sort of feel sorry for him. I mean on top of him being scary. And of course very attractive. Godness, I believe I just described my feelings for my husband ... No, joke aside ... I really really like it ... Now I also want someone like him supervising my work from a corner by the window. Lovely work!
    Thank you!

  4. i fear that no matter what i write, it will pale in comparison to what i am feeling... i noted on flickr that it seems to be the contradiction of beauty and horror that is so powerful... for all the face is modeled in a terrifying way, your color choices are sophisticated and entrancing - truthfully, the close up of the face is just beautiful... i love the experiments you worked on with your sister... but also the one you describe as mayan...
    i, too, thank you for taking the time to share the process, a glimpse into your creative journey...

  5. Loved seeing your process - and I am very much in awe of the imagination that went into the final piece! Fantastic work, Christine!

  6. Christine, like Mary Jane, I don't think I could describe in words just how incredible your sculpture really is. I really like this direction you are taking - working with dimension and adding on to your already amazing sculptural style. Your jewelry-sized masks are incredible as well. I am really in awe, wondering how you achieve the layers of color and detail.... And I agree with Malin, your sketches would make such wonderful art prints. It's great how you were able to pull out your work from 1996 and translate them in to your current style of work. I know you and your sister must have had a blast! She sounds so talented just as you are.