by Chantel Tattoli
It’s the time of year when you can be anything you want to be, and morphing into a butterfly or a frog can be as easy as donning the perfect mask. Now nearly 80 years old, Latvian native Jevgenia Kilupe had enjoyed drawing as a child, but spent her life working in Baltic factories during the Soviet occupation. In the early ’90s, to supplement her pension after retirement, she taught herself how to make hand-molded and hand-painted papier-mâché masks.
The bears and wolves, roosters, songbirds, horses and goats are carefully constructed from paper mass, glue, gouache, bright lacquers and sometimes fur—they seem to have trotted, leaped and flown right out of folklore.
Jevgenia spends the summertime in a little country house, where she watches the local fauna and shares her home with beloved pets, studying their characters to translate into her work throughout the year.
“Handmade animal masks are used in a number of Latvian annual folk celebrations since ancient times,” says Alma Suhanova, a Riga-based curator who, along with gallerist Linda Lūse, has helped Jevgenia maintain an Etsy shop. The beautiful guises are very Latvian, she says, but Jevgenia’s slowly wrought masks are considered a specialty.
The stunning, meticulously created masks are available in adult and children’s sizes for $47 at Kilupe’s Etsy store.
Images courtesy of Linda Lūse and Alma Suhanova