Among Rennies, Furries, and other lovers of fine and fun costumes in the midwest, Beckalyns Masquerade has become a well known name for quality, hand made masks, ears, and tails. Although she was quite busy preparing for the first weekend of the Blackrock Renaissance Festival this weekend, Beckalyn took some time to meet and answer a few questions in advance of the first day at Blackrock this Saturday.
John N Collins: You are becoming well known among the Rennies (attendees of Renaissance Fairs) for the quality and artistry of your products. Mind telling my readers a bit of your background, how you got into the artistic crafting work you do, and how you learned your craft?
Beckalyn: Well… I have an art & social psychology double major from WMU, so this whole mask-making dealio makes a bit of sense: how does wearing a mask change OUR OWN self-perception, and how does it change the perception of others toward us? .. that sort of thing.
How was I trained? Well, as far as mask-making goes, I’m “self-taught.” I have experimented with various media and have settled on my favourite (“Celluclay” — the original, grey stuff). I am a natural materials snob. I use only naturally-coloured feathers (and fur and wool and horns and antlers, etc etc) and only what is legal for me to use and sell. Had to do a bit of research and talk to the DNR on that!
My first mask was a dragon, which I created for Hallowe’en way back in ’91.. after that, I made one with pheasant feathers that a friend had given me — “they’re just too pretty to throw out!” That mask I donated to a cancer fundraising auction. At that point, I decided I wanted to put together enough pieces to have a show during one of Kalamazoo’s Art Hops… but was sort of gently shot down. So, I made a few more and elected to “show” my own works at arts and crafts shows.
It took a while — my earliest appearances were at Christmas at Wings and the Street Rod show at Kalamazoo’s fairground — but then I ended up at the SilverLeaf Renaissance Faire and my niche was found!
(honestly, John, I could chatter like a magpie for EVER about my origins and so forth… steer me!)
JNC: What products do you have available when you set up shop?
B’yn: First and foremost, I am a MaskMaker at heart. Despite not having the time to really CREATE lately, my booth does have a few of my elaborate rigid feather masks. I also have the less-elaborate, leather-backed feather masks which I call “Festival” masks.
Another main item I craft are feather fans, which came about from customer requests at SLRF.
To make use of odds & ends feathers, I make barrettes and earrings and staff straps and other little feathery things… and lately I have become known as “The Tail and Kitty Ears Booth” at the Michigan Renaissance Festival, because I make foxtail ties and two sizes of kitty ears.
JNC: Do you do special commissions? If so, what sort of commissions do you do?
B’yn: Commissions? Oh my, yes! Mask-wise, I like to say “If you wanna be it, I can make it!” I’ve done dragons and trolls and goblins and birds (including phoenix) and foxes and wolves and even a black unicorn!
I gladly welcome any challenge — the raccoon was fun, so was Anubis — but confess that this is not a good year for commissions because of the upheaval of moving, etc.
I welcome special requests for fans, too: if someone wants a specific colour combination, I typically make three fans from which to choose; because I will sell the other two! Same with the Festival masks.
Foxtails and kitty ears? You betcha! I can even make FEATHERED kitty ears in specific colours.
JNC: Have you had any interesting/weird commissions that you could tell us about?
B’yn: My favourite was a dual mask commission from one of my Patrons (she has more than six of my masks). She needed a Good Fairy and a Bad Faerie mask for the Ball of the same name, hosted by Brian and Wendy Froud. I also made a trio of masks for Red Horse Ranch: a Fox, a Hound, and a Horse… which ended up in some odd requests for “Pony Play” ears and tails from some folks of that ilk, who saw the horse mask on my website. And no, I wasn’t able to make pony play ears. Just didn’t have the time! Honestly, I don’t really want to know what folks DO in my work. Really. Nope.
JNC: Where can you be found by folks who want to pick up some of your products?
B’yn: I have booth 506 at the Michigan Renaissance Festival; it’s near the ice cream shop, “kid land”, and Heart’s Delight’s booth. That show runs seven weekends, starting mid-August. This year, that’s the 16th.
Also, a couple of my other friends run Mystik Waboose, and attend NUMEROUS events like anime & “furry” conventions and so forth, in NUMEROUS states. They carry my ears and tails, and can serve as a conduit for commissions of any sort.
JNC: Do you have an Etsy or other account where folks can buy your products online? Where else can you be found online? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Etc?
B’yn: My presence online is minimal at best, unfortunately. I *do* have a website — BeckalynsMasquerade.com — the challenge is simply to spell both “Beckalyns” and “Masquerade” correctly… but it’s only a pale, pale shadow of what my ‘site USED to be. I just haven’t had the time to get it REALLY created and updated. Frankly, I’d rather be in my studio than at my computer… or lately, I’d rather be doing ANYTHING business/art-related than getting my house ready to sell!
It’s been a strange, harried year.
Once we move, and I re-establish my studio on my FARM (read: Dream Fulfilled FINALLY) I plan to set up an etsy store and maybe even supplement my “official” website with a FaceBook version of Beckalyn’s Masquerade.
JNC: My main site is The Weird Review and I like to end my interviews with my weird question. Can you share something weird and wonderful about yourself?
B’yn: My newest and latest passion is raising rabbits. Yes, they’re furry and fluffy and cute and wonderful. They are also tasty and prolific and raising them is the BEST way to get the fur colours I need most for my kitty ears! I “take care of them” myself, and ready the pelts for tanning myself, and they’re done at Moyle Mink and Tannery here in the United States. Pretty much, all of the rabbit fur I use comes from MY rabbits, tanned in MY country. I proud of that. And content.
JNC: Thanks so much for agreeing to do an interview with me!
B’yn: T’was fun. Thank YOU.
The Blackrock Renaissance Festival is happening starting this Saturday July 12, 2014, at 10 a.m. at the Olde World Village in Augusta, Michigan and continues every Saturday and Sunday through August 3rd from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The Michigan Renaissance Festival is open Weekends & Labor Day • August 16 – September 28 PLUS Friday, Sept. 26! 10am – 7pm • Rain or Shine!
More about John N. Collins: