Mo & Terry Smedley
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Life Masks
Summer, 2009

On one of our journeys to Portland, we came across artist Beverly Toyu.  She's a ceramic artist who now specializes in making Life Masks.  Her web site has details of her background, and how she came to this unusual art form.    When we saw examples of her work, we thought this would be a very interesting alternative to the usual portrait photograph.  It captures an unusual perspective of what we look like today - and I think it will be fun to look back on these masks in (hopefully) a decade or two.  I'd love to get masks made of the entire family.....but haven't had much luck convincing them yet.

Click on any if the images below for a larger picture.

The first step is to make a plaster mold of your face.  Here, we're at Beverly's studio in Dayton, Oregon (near McMinnville).   Mo elected to go first.  Bob Martin and Betsy Seidel accompanied us on this trip. Beverly applies oil to the face, and  fits straws into your nose so you can breathe while the plaster is setting up.  That sounds a lot worse than it really is.  Beverly has a very calming personality.  During the plaster process, she's constantly talking to you in a very reassuring way. The oil allows the plaster to release without a lot of effort.  Here, she's having Mo hold the mask so it won't drop when she sits up.
Gee, that was easy!   It takes less then ten minutes for the plaster to harden. Mo checks out the plaster mold. Now it's my turn.  Beverly starts with a brief face and scalp massage.   That was the best part of the process for me!  She had a little trouble getting me fitted for "nose straws".  One nostril is apparently bigger than the other.
The plaster curing is exothermic, so your face gets a little warm while it hardens.  It's an odd sensation, but not at all frightening.  It is a little dark in there, though! Despite the liberal oiling, the plaster was hung up on all my facial hair (my eyebrows and sideburns).   We had to tug on it a bit to get it to come off. And that one was easy, too! My turn to check out the mold.  Is that me in there?
About six weeks after making the mold, the finished masks are ready.  Mo said she didn't recognize herself. Mine was easy to pick out - big nose, and bushy eyebrows. We choose the Raku glaze for the fired masks - it results in an unpredictable metallic pattern that was unusual.