[The above image features a mask by Mary Levinsky. Photo credit: Amber Estes Thieneman.]
Mary Levinsky creates unusual and beautiful works of art. Her animal masks are a hit on Etsy (missmarymask.etsy.com). Another successful venture is her shop, Block Party Handmade Boutique (blockpartyhandmade.com) at 560 S. Fourth St.
LEO: What type of artist are you?
Mary Levinsky: I am a mixed-media artist and have been told I have a painterly style, although my loved ones would tell you that the proper term for that is “messy.”
LEO: What prompted you to start making masks?
ML: I was crafting feather hair fascinators that I would sell at art fairs and my friend Kayla asked if I could make her an owl mask using that same kind of technique. I put it on my Etsy page and began getting more custom orders so I was able to build my portfolio based on custom orders. Amber Estes Thieneman shot the photographs for my masks. Her beautiful work is what brought my masks to life and made them successful on Etsy.
LEO: Explain your artistic process for the masks.
ML: When I am working on a new mask, I do a lot of research about the subject and sketch out thumbnails before I start creating. Once I have a clear idea of what I want to do, I draw a stencil of the mask that I can reuse by transferring it to the fabric. I had a space that I was supposed to use as my studio in my house, but my favorite place to work is on the back deck in the sunshine, with lots of coffee and music. I like to play upbeat music to help me get motivated and focused, so Outkast usually does the trick. Once I have the base of the mask prepped and ready, I start mixing my paints. I was taught to never use premixed paints so I mix all of the colors for my masks, which makes each one truly one of a kind. After layers of paint and letting the mask dry, I do the finishing touches and try it on to make sure everything looks good. The entire process is pretty tedious, a lot of fabric cutting, sewing, gluing and waiting for paint to dry, so the coffee is most important.
LEO: What is the most unusual item you have used in your art?
ML: I haven’t really used anything too unusual in my art. I love creating, but most of my work is art that I’m selling so I don’t get too crazy with it. However, my first tail I made for a costume I had to rush for an order and ended up stuffing it with old bubble wrap.
LEO: Since you are also the owner of the Block Party Handmade Boutique, please tell us a little about your shop.
ML: Block Party is my dream shop, and we sell what I think are the cutest things in the world, handmade by independent artists. I like to travel and really research to find very unique items, and love creating relationships and a community for artists. I actually haven’t sold my own masks in my shop but am going to try to this year for Halloween. We have been open a little over two years on South Fourth Street downtown and are actually opening a second shop in Crescent Hill next month.