Vallance transforms waste into art
Lindsay Vallance has been turning recyclable materials into beautiful works of art since 2004, and currently has her Voyagers mask gallery on display at The Arts Station in downtown Fernie.
Previously, when Vallance was in school for art restoration, she painted with oils. When she returned to Fernie after 10 years abroad, Vallance found it was difficult to keep this up with three roommates, limited space and little ventilation for the paints to air.
In 2004 she switched to working with masks because it better suited her living space, it was cheap, and the resources were easily obtained. Although she has training in drama, this has little relation to the masks, as they cannot be worn.
Vallance currently works at the Fernie Museum, and makes the masks in her spare time.
Each mask is made out of papier mâché. First, a mold of the face is made, and then trimmed to take on a personality. Next, pieces are added onto the sides and/or the top. After some preparation, planning and priming, the pieces are all put together and decorated. Last, a layer of vinyl is applied to preserve the colors. In total, it takes 45-50 hours to make each mask.
Cardboard, wire, tin cans and other recyclables are used to create the masks. Running out of ideas is not an issue for Vallance, as she is always finding new materials, which present new possibilities for different kinds of masks.
“There’s really just so much you can do with garbage,” said Vallance. “You can never really run out of ideas.”
Using garbage is something Vallance started off doing because it was cheap and available, but she has kept going with this tradition and continues to use whatever she can get her hands on.
“I’m cheap, for one thing,” said Vallance, laughing. “I have a very strong scavenger’s instinct. I’m one of those people who says ‘don't throw it away, it’s still perfectly good!’”
Comparing mask making to bronze or glass work, Vallance is happy working in the medium she is, as it requires fewer tools and equipment.
“With things like pottery, you need a kiln,” said Vallance. “With this stuff you can make anything, and you just need a room, a table and 7000 hours of your life that you’ll never get back again.”
The first time she made a mask was when she was living in Cranbrook. At the time, she was going to cooking school and had no knowledge in painting. It was a process of trial and error, and they have since grown from tiny masks to massive pieces of artwork, which seem to somehow personify the wall they hang on.
“The Fernie Arts Council, compared to other arts councils, it does an amazing job,” said Vallance. “Artists tend to be fairly insular people, so dragging them out into the limelight regularly is very important, otherwise they would never leave.”
So far, the response to her artwork from the public has been positive.
“The ones that talk to me seem very impressed,” said Vallance, “The ones that hate it probably don’t say anything,” she added, laughing.
Vallance has a hard time putting a price on what she makes, and gets a friend to appraise them for her. If she were to price according to the hours spent, “I would weep.” Currently each piece runs around the $250-300 range.
“Like pretty much any art form, you should never give art as a gift to someone who isn’t also an artist, because they’re the only people who will understand,” said Vallance.
Vallance’s masks will be on display at The Arts Station until February 22, after which the Annex Suspended Art display, a collaboration between two Fernie friends, Brina Schenk and Michelle Galway will take its place on February 23.