Masks – Inspiration From The British Museum

With signing my new tenancy today meaning that I’m in London, I planned a gentle day at the British Museum.


My project for assignment 5 is using self portrait and embroidery to explore the emotional States of anorexia. I visited the British Museum as a means of having a gentle day after signing my tenancy. I travel back tomorrow and then move here on Friday. Yay.


It quickly became apparent that the museum has a collection of masks in most of the cultural zones. Masks being an important element of many traditional and indigenous cultures, religions and traditions. As I will be embroidering onto my self portraits for this assignment, then I see that I am creating masks.

I felt particularly drawn to shamanic cultures that use icons depicting animal spirits. Some cultures use masks to reveal hidden aspects of personality, rather than to hide them. This feels particularly pertinent to me in my process of recovering from my eating disorder.

Hidden or suppressed aspects of my character being revealed to aid me in my recovery, now that makes sense to me. Animals are important to me as spirit guides, and I’ve previously blogged about my connection with pigs, and their spiritual representation of abundance. I feel drawn to kingfishers, which to me represent both protection and rage. These are helpful and unhelpful aspects of personality. Kingfishers will fight other kingfishers to death to protect their territory. That fits in with my portrait depicting rage. Some native American cultures consider the rattlesnake (utsonati) to be a potent medicine spirit, which fits in with recover. This would work well with pride, my sixth self-portrait.

Today I’ve also considered that I could make a plaster cast of my face, and then use the decoupage technique to blend my portraits with Letinsky’s photography to add a different dimension to the work I am producing.


My tutor recently gave me some feedback, suggesting that I be open-minded to the organic evolution of my ideas. Today’s trip to the British Museum has done just that. Is anyone up for making plaster casts of my face? I can’t remember when I last got plastered!

17 Replies to “Masks – Inspiration From The British Museum”

  1. Really fascinating to read how your inspiration is traveling through this project. Thank you for sharing the masks photos. Just beautiful! I love the idea of tying it in with shamanic totems, animal guides. You’ve rekindled a desire to finish an old project of mine. ♥.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you so much for reading that. I am sorry to include a link. I know it’s a bit rude (or think it may be?!) but I was so sick yesterday. Better today. So yes, a “Scape Coat” a la Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkoles Estes. She is so inspiring. That book is full of archetypal stories from every culture, so there’s a wealth of imagery just in those stories alone. Wolves run through most of my poetry, and since my wolf Rowdy is my guiding light in many ways, I’ll use wolves to weave the Coat together – running wolves, playing wolves. It’s going to take years I suspect since it will bring together a lifetime of “scars.” Haven’t been brave enough to wade all the way into those memories yet, but I did some work last December on it. So — yes! Thanks so much for your interest. *hugs* ♥.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am drawn to masks and I have many decorating my home, in a variety of ‘styles’. I enjoyed your thoughtfulness in exploring what they mean to you and how you can use them. Your art is going beyond photography becoming so complex. Intriguing.

    Liked by 2 people

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