Interview With Jolene of Platymorph

10394619_602454653199874_3361592018004753267_n HB: Hello, Jolene. Thank you for taking the time to do this review. I think the work you do in PlatyMorph is beautiful. Can you tell us about what you do at PlatyMorph?

A: Thank you so much! I currently make masks, headpieces, hair ornaments and horned crowns. Themes range from fantasy, woodland, steampunk, anime, gaming and fairy tale origins. I specialize in creating original designs and also do custom work upon request. Customers help inspire new patterns all the time by providing feedback and suggestions on existing designs, and I value that very much!

HB: How did you get into leather working as your artistic medium? 10924157_629933013785371_5738269647752528832_o

I fell backwards into leather work very nearly by accident! Years ago I had plans to attend a friend’s steampunk themed party and was researching how to make costume accessories for it. It all started with a scrap of vegetable tanned leather that came from a bargain barrel! ***
{Badlands Leather Art, Clay Banyai, Brenda Kubo, Vance Heiser and Tim Shatraw of Rapid City, SD were all instrumental in orienting me to leather working and traditional leather tooling methods. Their skills and mastery of all things leather related continue to impress and inspire me, and I am very grateful for their guidance and assistance.}
*** Before leather, I had made masks with paper and fabric mache as well as plaster strips. These techniques take quite a bit of time to build forms with, and have the disadvantage of being hard and fragile. Leather is much more durable, flexible, lightweight, and malleable so it quickly became my favored material for mask making.

10426219_639556999489639_8067085590267053252_nHB: Can you tell us about your schooling?

I attended a small liberal arts college, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, with the help of an art scholarship, but started out as a biology major. ‘Instinct’ (and the need to keep my GPA high enough to keep the scholarship!) led me to switch to studio art in my sophomore year. I went on several art and history study tours to Germany and Italy during 1998-99 which included attending a Carnivale celebration in Venice. The art of the city and the energy of the Carnivale revelers ignited my interest in the magic potential of masks. I pursued mask performance study while abroad at the University of New South Wales, Australia in the fall of 2000.

Graduating with a focus in drawing, sculpture and photography in 2001, masks and puppets forcefully kidnapped me into the back of a fifteen passenger van for a year long internship with Das Puppenspiel Puppet Theater. Living in Westfield, NY, I was trained in westernized bunraku puppetry and performed in shows including “The Snow Queen”, “Peter and The Wolf”,“Through the Looking Glass” as well as Das Puppenspiel’s award-winning original production, “Pictures at an Exhibition” in numerous venues across the east coast.

My formal art training continued with a figure drawing marathon at the New York Studio School of Drawing in New York City in 2002. Influential classes in costume design, mask construction, and comic art at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks during the following years propelled me along a continually winding path towards finally launching PlatyMorph in 2012.


HB: Do you feel that being able to do an internship at Das Puppenspiel in Westfield, NY; help to get you where you are today?

Definitely! Das Puppenspiel was a great teaching place and demonstrated what a small group of talented artists built out of their combined skills, love of art and theater, and more than thirty years of persistence. The walls were covered with a history of puppets, puppet parts and ingeniously designed masks and costume pieces. It was fascinating to examine how everything was constructed, learn about the materials that were used, and that inspired me to incorporate what I learned into my own work.

HB: Can you tell us a little bit about what goes into designing a new mask?

The mask process always starts with a drawing, tracing paper and some scissors! Sort of like making a paper pattern for sewing, using a paper ‘dummy’ can save a lot of trial and error with sizing and envisioning the end product. Using a mirror and your own face, you can get pretty good results with a paper mock up before transferring the design to a piece of leather.This is the method I used almost exclusively for the first year I made leather masks.

10957567_638838532894819_2362287477845878854_n HB: Do you dye your leather or do you purchase it pre dyed?

I always start with un-dyed, lightweight, vegetable-tanned leather. ‘Vegetable tanned’ is the sort of tanning process that still allows the leather to absorb water, which is critical to the shaping process.

10845657_612078502237489_3467895996814593163_oHB: I know the time put into each mask would be different depending on how complex it is but can you give us an estimate on how long it takes you to make your masks?

The most basic items I make take about 1 day to complete, as there are several wetting and drying stages before the painting and sealing process. A moderately detailed mask like a medium sized dragon with tooling takes (and I timed it during a panic rush order one night) a total of 13 hours with no sleep or breaks. I try to avoid working that way whenever possible! With normal life functions, the same mask takes 3-4 days to complete. Very complex, multi-layered pieces can take a full week or more.

HB: Are you planing to do any additional leather items in the future, such as gauntlets?

I have made matching gauntlets for a few customers that wanted coordinating accessories for their masks, but I’ve found my interests are more with mask making. If there is a specific request for an alternative sort of product, I am happy to give it a try, as I often learn many new skills this way.

10703837_590889387689734_1920209503528071095_oHB: What are your future plans for PlatyMorph?

I am starting to learn advanced leather shaping techniques, wool felting and wire wrapping, and am looking to incorporate different materials into my leather based designs for added interest, texture and movement. I want to elevate the masks I build into the realm of fine art as well as continue to create festival and masquerade type pieces that are accessible to a wide range of customers. Creating original designs is my first love and greatest interest, and I look forward to inventing new and more surprisingly dramatic creatures in the future.

HB: Thank you again for taking the time to do this interview. Is there anything you would like to add?

I want to thank you, Heather, for taking the time to talk to me! I am constantly in the process of learning, and hope that PlatyMorph will be able to meet up with you again sometime soon. Best of luck and prosperity to you, your blog and Ravensplace!


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