The Return…Getting Back to my Creative Process

It’s been eight months since I’ve posted anything on this website and six months since I’ve created any new episodes on my Podcast: The Accidental Curator . Although most of my creative energy had been directed towards the podcast since its inception in mid-2020, it was still my intention to use Clay and Bone as an outlet for my mask-making, painting and short story writing. Whereas writing can take place anywhere and anytime that inspiration and the muse allow, regional travel restrictions prevented me from using my Studio/Gallery on Mayne Island for any of my 3 and 2 dimensional artwork. All creative projects hit a wall in June as regional Covid restrictions were lifted and I was able to travel – once again – to Mayne Island to re-open my Gallery Café .

Although I haven’t painted much during the pandemic I did manage to sell one of my pieces, “Winter Pond”, when my Gallery re-opened for business this past summer

When I finally managed to re-open to the public in July – after a 21 month hiatus – I had no idea what to expect. Given that we were still in the midst of the pandemic, would islanders and tourists show up or would I be left in my empty Gallery/Café vaxxed, masked, and holding a bottle of hand sanitizer. Well…they showed up…in droves…and I had the busiest summer, albeit shortened, that I’d had in 8 years in business. Perhaps this was due to an unprecedented fire season we were having in the interior of BC which drove people to the coast for vacation, perhaps it was due to the US border re-opening to Americans (but not Canadians) such that they flowed up here but we had nowhere to go, maybe it was the new dynamic of people leaving the cities, discovering ways to continue working online thus liberating them from offices and the urban environment…maybe it was just that islanders after a year and a half of pandemic limitations, were in need of somewhere else to go and grab a coffee on a small island with few options. Anyway you slice it, it was a busy, busy summer at the Gallery Café and all plans of Podcasting, Posting or Painting were off.

This was my last day of Summer hours – October 3, 2021 -and I had a quiet moment to do a walkthrough to capture the Shavasana vibe, a little momento of a fabulous summer – despite the pandemic👍

This outcome was not such a bad thing. I actually love working at Shavasana Gallery & Café. I feel blessed to interact with such a – generally – happy group of people. Whether they are tourists who are on vacation euphoria or islanders who are joyous at their good fortune, my experience, as a barista/curator on a small Gulf Island has been one of sublime bliss.

And I could carry on this way indefinitely but for two realities, “shoulder season” arrives, and my inner creative neanderthal needs to abandon the hunt for nuts and berries and go into the cave and make art, or tell stories, or beat a drum. “Shoulder Season” for a small Gallery Café proprietor on Mayne island is that period – roughly – from October through March where I become, as one friend described it, less of a gregarious summertime social maestro, and more of counsellor for those suffering mid-winter cabin fever blues…all for the price of a cup of coffee.

I did manage to paint this mask, “Pandemic Pan”, which I made in 2020

Thus…a perfect time to work on my creative projects. I’ve already started to prepare more clay for a new mask I have in mind, and have been gifted with a lovely set of Fallow Deer antlers from one of our island hunters – Bob – which will grace this piece.

Preparing “Clay and Bone” for the next mask project

Another project which has kept me moderately busy is an ebay store which I set up in late 2020. It occurred to me during the pandemic that I had collectibles (comics & sport cards from my childhood), antiques and art that I was willing to part with so I took some time to populate my ebay store with 200 items for sale (follow the link if you wish to have a look). This has been going surprisingly well and has been a fun pastime in lieu of running Shavasana Gallery or making art at my studio. I think the next stage will be reaching out to artists and friends who have art which they’d like to sell through my store. I already have a few items from friends for sale and have had interested inquiries from others.

And then there’s life…and death. Joyously, my son Cam got married in September to his sweetheart Nekita, and then tragically two of my dearest friends lost their son in October…this capricious universe, so dynamic, so organized yet chaotic. I am often left in awe of this experience, yet always try to find some way to express gratitude.

And when all else fails? Go to a Bond movie…although the pandemic postponed the release of “No Time To Die” for 18 months, when it finally hit the screens in October I beelined to the neighbourhood cinema and caught a Sunday matinee. I slouched into my seat with a box of hot salted buttered popcorn… and Bond delivered…all is right in the universe👍

Nothing like a little Bond & Buttered Popcorn on a rainy Sunday afternoon to make everything right in the universe…at least for a short while🙏

Alan Turing – Mask # 8

I am writing this from my table – roadside – at Xacalli Café in Centro La Manzanilla, Mexico. It’s late evening on Valentines Day 2018 and I am continuing on this path of writing while on the road – quite literally in this case. I seem to prefer writing in public places – cafés especially – where there is lots of life, energy and activity.


Massive trucks roll by, returning from the new construction project in La Tamarindo, young men and women cruise along on motorbikes and ATVs with children clinging to their backs,  bands are competing for the attention of passers by, shops are still doing a brisk business, and Nellie chases her two young daughters around Xacalli Café while her and her husband continue to work tirelessly in this ever-popular place.

Although I don’t have access to my journals while in Mexico for the specific period of time when I was creating Masks #7 (Cernunnos) and #8 (Alan Turing), I can tell from my photo record that I began work on Turing immediately after completion of Cernunnos – which was mid January 2015.

A movie on Alan Turing’s life had been released in late 2014 – The Imitation Game. Knowing very little about Turing at that time, I went to the film and was moved by his story – his significant contributions to mathematics and computing science, his outstanding contribution to cracking German codes during World War 2, and hence saving countless lives and shortening the war by several years, and ultimately, his maltreatment by the British Legal system, which was still prosecuting individuals for being gay in 1952 England. His punishment – chemical castration – ruined his health and he committed suicide in relative obscurity, primarily because his heroic deeds could not be recognized & heralded for many years after the war – and his life – had ended.

In short, I was moved by his inspiring yet ultimately tragic story and decided to make a mask in his honor. For a model I chose this black and white image from Wikipedia


Alan looks – passingly – like this sketch I created for aid in the mask-making process – (pay no attention to that right eye 🙂 )


A little clay work…


After firing and attaching the antlers…


After painting and a few other touch ups, I’ve finalized my homage to Alan Turing..,


Back at Xacalli…it’s around 9pm on February the 18th. Nellie the co-owner makes fabulous desserts and a mean cup of coffee which has become my evening treat in sobriety – as I write – in lieu of bars and clubs. The inclusion of photos from my photo library has been a little challenging on this iPad mini. Without labouring excessively on this, I may publish a few articles which will need to be doctored when I return to Vancouver and the power and convenience of my laptop.

As I continue on this journey of ceramic mask making I find that I am gravitating towards historical figures, or, individuals of note that interest me. The first 5 masks were primarily visual concepts – images – generated from my subconscious. Since Sakura, beginning with Oppenheimer, I have been more interested in paying homage to academics, political leaders or individuals who have had some influence on where we – as a culture or species – find ourselves now.

Back in Vancouver awaits Mask # 10, which is – I think – my best mask to date. It still needs firing (hopefully it will survive the kiln – always a concern for ceramicists) and, after I write up Mujica – Mask # 9, my Blog will be up to date as I move forward with new creations.

Cernunnos – Celtic God of Things

It’s early January 2015. It’s slow this time of year on Mayne so it’s a good time to turn ones focus toward creative projects. For reasons murky even to myself, I have created a series of ceramic masks adorned with horns and antlers. If I take a moment to ponder my motivations and goals for doing so, I’d say that my efforts are an amalgam of: the simple pleasure of creating with ones hands; the changes that accrue with any creative process over long periods of time; and the vague desire to impart some kind of meaning or significance to my creative process –  with varying degrees of conviction.

Somewhere during this intermittent 40-year plus exploration into ceramic mask making, antlers, somewhat playfully, arrived. Quite simply, an initial vision – of masks adorned with antlers or horns – arrived in tandem with the curiosity of how to do this without incinerating the antlers in the hellishly hot kiln. Clay was my medium of choice and I knew that it would be far too brittle to attach anything to it without hardening the clay first, through the firing process. So…mask first, antlers after, and, as I am reluctant to use glues (toxicity) I would have to create an attachment mechanism using wires threaded through drill holes in the antlers and matched with same-size holes in the “skull” of the mask, and then twisted tightly together in the hollow body of the mask.

…a side note: it seems to be taking some time to write this article. I began this several weeks ago back in Vancouver and now find myself at Roosters Café in Melaque Mexico (I prefer to write in cafes) Had a lot to contend with back in the Pacific Northwest: shutting down my Art Gallery/Studio for an indeterminate period of time; quenching multiple problematic fires that had ignited; and arranging this mid-winter trip. Also, I find that I am wrestling – unnecessarily perhaps – with the search for an explanation as to “why I adorn my ceramic masks with antlers”… I find that I am cursed with occasional bouts of meaninglessness (like…right now) which adds an extra challenge to  the task of  explaining, with any significance, the rationale behind my creativity.

So, the first several masks were an attempt to rekindle my, somewhat, dormant interest in working with clay, and to make sure that the process was successful. I had been researching and gathering faces and images that were of interest to me, and it was during this process that I spent more time – than I had previously – reading about some of the pagan deities that were depicted, historically, sporting horns and antlers. Primarily, my reading (Wikipedia is great for this) led me to: Faunus – the Roman God of forest plains and fields; Pan – the Greek God of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature, and rustic music; and Cernunnos- the Celtic God of fertility, life, animals, wealth and the underworld. Somewhere along the journey from Paganism to Christianity these rather benign deities were expunged, and their horns were given to Christian depictions of Satan. I am not Pagan, however, being of Celtic heritage means – quite likely – that somewhere in my families distant past we honoured Cernunnos and other Celtic deities, and, like indigenous peoples everywhere had this practice removed from our culture. I’m not certain that the subsequent depiction of Satan sporting horns was an attempt to vilify these Pagan deities, but it seems to have had that effect. Horns have been hijacked! 🙂 It’s notable how many people come into my Gallery (where most of my antlered/horned masks reside) and comment on “how scary they are”. This is not my intent. A while back, I was showing pictures of my masks to an elderly friend, when he uttered, somewhat aghast, “Those are the masks of Satan!” I assured him this was not the case. Each mask is unique, as are the “meanings” behind them. Perhaps in some small – meaningless- way I am attempting to redress a wrong. Horns are harmless, antlers are not the anti-Christ. Evil is best defined by intent and action not depiction.


There are not many depictions of Cernunnos and he is only referred to once by name  (on the Pillar of the Boatmen above). The top engraving is from the Gundestrop Cauldron. Unlike Pan and Faunus, which are horned, Cernunnos is an antlered deity. Without much to go by, I sketched this first image:


Which gave me a rough guide to start working on my mask.


Which, after some refinements and detailing……


And some kiln time, produced the final product which you’ll see below…


My original intent was to leave Cernunnos unpainted so it could weather the elements and be displayed outdoors – in nature  – where Gods of Nature would most likely prefer to reside. I subsequently had an urge to paint this mask, which I did, but have not yet had a chance to take photos. This I will do upon my return to Mayne Island from Mexico sometime in March. Hasta Luego!