Melissa Ng is a dreamer who has learned to face her fears. Her bravery, which is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to do despite it, is channeled through her creation Lumecluster. She introduces her idea of making as an act of courageous self exploration on her website:
“As a creative entrepreneur (feel free to insert maker, artist, blogger, author, etc.) you go through a lot of emotional turmoil trying to bring your dreams to life. And when the going gets tough, fear of failure, rejection, and becoming your own worst enemy are just some of the obstacles that can get in your way. Through 3D printed Dreamer Masks, Lumecluster wants to help you break through fear and self doubt and empower you to fight for your dreams.”
Masks have served as powerful tools for transformation throughout human history. They serve to reinforce cultural bonds, call on powerful spirits, portray individual and group dreams, and to tell stories. For Ng, the cultural group that needs masks now more than ever is the entrepreneurial tribe, a fierce group of makers, warriors of innovation and a collective of dreamers, dealing with their own demons of doubt and muses of inspiration.
Those fears all rose to the surface when Ng was contacted by film director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo to make masks for the ‘It Just Feels’ music video being created with recording artist JiHAE. When Vosloo described the masks she envisioned, full color, lifelike façades, Ng realized she was going to have to create something completely outside of her comfort zone. All of her dreamer masks were printed in white plastic; she had never worked in color before. She wanted to tell Vosloo that she couldn’t do it, but that maybe she could find someone who could. Then, thinking about her own assertions, she decided to trust what she had been telling others:
“Deep down, I always wanted to create something eerie and this was clearly my chance! So, what was my real fear? Well…I had never designed/printed a full color mask, never made a life-like mask, never painted a texture for a model, never UV mapped, and never experimented with any materials beyond plastics and metals.”
As if that weren’t nerve wracking enough, Vosloo told Ng that she only had three weeks. However, she steeled herself and agreed to the project, agreeing to create one mask for JiHAE and four masks for Walking Dead star Norman Reedus. She spent the first week working out the processes and creating the mask for JiHAE. Feeling very satisfied with the progress and her creation, she was stunned to learn that instead of having two more weeks in which to work, she had three days.
Reedus’ work schedule had changed and the shoot date for the video had to be pushed up until it was pressing right against their faces. Ng and Vosloo spent hours working out the approach and ideas for the masks, searching through images until they found the images to be used as inspiration.
Technology is a best friend and a worst enemy in a crisis and, of course, Ng’s tablet decided to make a dramatic exit, leaving her to paint with her mouse. No matter, by the end of day two they were making headway, despite not having Reedus’ measurements. By some miracle, JiHAE engineered Reedus’ brief visit to Shapeways to have his face 3D scanned and photos made that would ensure a match in skin tone.
After a night that made the all-nighters pulled in college seem like a cake walk, Ng got the okay for the masks and off the files went to Shapeways: a true rush order.
“As you already guessed, they were a success. I was so relieved…I just wanted to cry and fall asleep on the Shapeways factory table. My part was complete…all that was left was the music video shoot itself. There was pressure, uncertainty, doubt, confusion, anxiety…Looking back, I loved every minute of it because it was a challenge (and risk) I was willing to take.”
JiHAE’s album release is set for May 27th and the video was only just released last week. The video is sexy and the music is haunting, JiHAE’s voice is nothing like what you expect it to be if you’ve never heard her sing before. The song is stuck in my head and the refrain of gratitude keeps running through my mind. The masks don’t steal the show. Instead they are a seamless and striking part of a visual whole. Worn, discarded, and dropped the view is tantalizingly brief, like the brush of fingertips across skin. The faces will stay with you, both the real and the masks.
You won’t know you need to watch this again until its over, but trust me, you will.
Tell us what you think about these 3D printed masks in the Melissa Ng Designs Masks for JiHAE Music Video forum thread at 3DPB.com.