An artist creates beauty in the time of coronavirus
Melina Paris, Arts and Culture Reporter
San Pedro artist Anne Olsen-Daub usually works on many creative projects at once. She blames it on her short attention span, but to look at her art pieces, it’s evident they emerge as a call and response between idea and creation.
Because of coronavirus and the efforts to comply with protection and social distancing measures, Anne has responded by looking into ways to design face masks. She has already designed some and the manifestation of her initial impulse has emerged as something functional with an added bit of fashion for fun.
“If it were not for the need for people to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19, I wouldn’t have ever done this,” Anne said.
Coming from a fashion background, Anne designs intuitively. She attended Otis College of Art and Design with a focus on fine art and primarily fashion. Later, she worked in the downtown Los Angeles Fashion District for about four years before moving on to work at Mattel, where in part, she designed high-end fashion for Barbie. Working at Mattel was a great opportunity for her until it was just time for her to move on around 2002. She has been freelancing, making and selling her own art since that time.
With her studio set up to accommodate her numerous creations, she has three separate workstations: painting /sculpture, jewelry and sewing, now, for masks. She goes from one area to the next as materials call to her, telling her it’s time to make something.
“My cabinet is filled with a variety of beautiful vintage and quality fabrics I’ve collected for years,” Anne said. “[It’s] pretty simple pattern making but [the masks] do take some time to sew.”
She uses what she has on hand for her masks, mostly cotton and silk fabrics. Both are washable and breathable. The face coverings she has designed are quite beautiful. Some feature delicate paisley and floral top stitching accented by long luxurious ties. Others pop in dynamic color lines that seem to move in patterns collaboratively yet individually, completed with a braided tie. All are draped with elegant folds. The masks make a statement. There is one very special detail. Anne said a crystal teardrop hand sewn under the eye on some of her masks is telling for our times, as she referenced a music icon.
“Oh, such a sad sad state we’re in, [from Stranger In A Strange Land, by Leon Russell].”
Anne’s masks are made to wear and a few are just for art’s sake.
“I wanted to do them in a new and arty way and to [have] a story or an interesting way to make masks for the future, like a Mad Max world with objects like hinges and all sorts of crazy things on them,” Anne said.
“It’s like working on an assembly line of one,” she quipped.
The masks are special — not standard — and they evolve as she makes them. She realized face coverings are a necessity and unfortunately will remain one. Initially, it was hard for the public to purchase them and what was available was kind of ugly. With a bunch of fabric and a sewing machine, she got to work. After posting her creations on Instagram to positive response, she began making masks for whomever wanted one.
“But it’s going to be cooler with much more interesting ways to go in the future with this,” Anne said. “It’s not like I do a drawing and then I make that drawing. I look for the materials that I have around and I see what inspires me to evolve a mask into more of something else … but still that. We are going to have to be wearing masks and we might find ourselves having five or six of them for different occasions.”
In this new state with personal protective equipment we reside in, thoughts stir in Anne’s mind as she plans and as the public adjusts to this new, every-day accessory. She imagines there will be masks to go with your blouse, or shorts to match your mask. And as we wear these protective fashion pieces, it’s other features, such as our eyes and hair that will stand out. They are utilitarian with a tiny twist in Anne’s choice of fabric that makes them unique, “the next new trend on the runway,” she said.
Pieces coming to fruition
Recently, Anne has been creating cardboard relief sculptures — a technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. She was inspired when a friend of hers brought her unstretched canvas paint frames. She doesn’t stretch canvas and wondered what she could do to the frames without having to rely on somebody else for help before she started. She is a recycler, there are so many materials that don’t cost a fortune, so she salvaged some cardboard. She made sculptures from the material, which hang on the wall like a picture. She added surprising details on them like screws she had laying about that look like rivets. Part fantasy, part contemporary, Anne’s relief sculptures combine an industrial and artistic aesthetic.
But her main creation is handcrafted jewelry, which is loosely based on archetypes: elemental, slight obsession, tribal modern and faceted light. She manipulates objects into unique, timeless art in the form of oversize statement necklaces, assemblage pieces displayed under a glass dome, custom made and other opulent pieces.
Where the masks require a completely different kind of world working with textile, all her creations are intuitive. She has to tell herself sometimes that she can’t make everything — she just sees beauty in older, quality made things. Her love for these treasures compels her to go out looking for them. With creativity unleashed, she is left only to the bounds of her imagination.