I write this blog from the airport as I wait for my flight to Portland to board. I wanted to catch you all up on the masks I’ve been making in Bali. In my last post, you saw the old man bondres I completed. My teacher pushed me to start two more, so that I could get the hang of beginning from a simple block of wood.
Mask 2: Gajah Mada
For the second mask, I decided to make one that could be used in the dance we were learning. I sketched a version of the prime minister that I wanted to create. He’s a warrior, and the first to dance in the topeng.
After I showed my sketch to my teacher, he said it was a “Gajah Mada” character. I was confused, as gajah means elephant. (Remember when I went to the Goa Gajah cave? That was fun.) He said it was more of a metaphor, and refers the feeling of strength of the character.
Mask 3: The Gentle Giant
For my final mask I was to start in Bali, I knew I wanted something a little coarser and with a moving jaw.
While working on this mask, Pak Nyoman stood back and let me figure things out as much as he could, which I appreciated. It can be difficult to willingly dive in to your own inevitable mistakes, but it’s much more worthwhile.
And it’s also a bit slower going! I elected to take a couple of extra classes to get some more guidance. It was fun to work one on one. We got to talk about mask styles from around the world. Nyoman also mentioned that although he is happy to carve traditional Balinese characters, he also welcomes the challenge of other styles, traditional or modern.
But then again, who wouldn’t? It’s part of the artist’s work and the human condition to follow inspiration and find those things that feed your soul.
Though I am en route to Portland, fear not, faithful readers! I will be continuing my blog into the future. There are still some things about Bali to write about, and there will always be more masks I’d love to share with you!