By TIFFANY RONEY
A hero, a villain, a horse of neutral intentions – masks allow their wearers to become almost anything. “Make it Yourself – Masks,” a costume making class taught by a comic book artist offers local youth the opportunity to transform.
Denise Blehm, director of the Arts Council of Dickinson County, said she and her team aimed to use their summer costume classes to help children and teenagers create costumes with elements that are easily available.
Blehm approached Ryan Negus, a local artist who had already taught other classes for the arts council, and asked him to teach the costume classes because he had shared with her about his annual excursions to Comic-Con, an international comic book convention. Negus makes his own costumes each year for his participation in the convention.
“She said, ‘You’re always telling me about your costumes you make. Why don’t you do a class teaching kids how to make costumes?’ and I thought, ‘Whoa,’” Negus said. “The thought never crossed my mind, but I liked it.”
In addition to the upcoming mask class, the council is currently offering a class on hands and claws, which is closed to further enrollees. The mask class, however, is open to new registrants.
“The hands and masks… we thought that’d be the easiest thing, where you’d have to help the kids create using their imaginations and then hopefully they will be able to find those elements at home or pick something up at even Goodwill,” Blehm said. “We’re hoping to spark their imaginations.”
In the class students ages 8 to 18 are invited to use balloons and paper mâché to form masks. Negus said students will measure their heads from the hairline to the bottom of the chin, blow up balloons and cover the balloons with paper mâché mixture from an arts and crafts store. After the mixture dries, they will pop the balloon, sand it down, paint it and add their own accessories to turn the mask into the character they want to portray.
“We’re always trying to think of things for the kids to do, classes for the kids, to show them that you can be creative with things that either you have on hand or aren’t going to break the bank, so we really try to do that,” Blehm said. “Not every kid wants to be a hobo every year – wear last year’s pants that are too short.”
The mask making will take place under Negus’ guidance. In addition to his hobby as a costume creator, Negus is a comic book artist. He has self-published two comic books and is currently working on a third. He also produces a comic strip for The Wakefield Times.
Negus makes his own costumes each year for his participation in Comic-Con, an international comic book convention.
“The majority of people dress up, just in whatever. I mean, there’s Batman, Spiderman, ladies in Spandex that shouldn’t be – the whole gamut; anything you can think of,” Blehm said. “Some of them are really elaborate, obviously purchased costumes that people have probably spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on. I think it’s cool that Ryan is creative enough to make his own stuff.”
Negus said he spent $8-10 on a Rat King costume he wore one year. For the costume he turned inside out the same sweatshirt he had used for another costume and he removed the pocket to use the fabric for straps of cloth on the pant legs. The rest of the costume contained pieces he already had on hand. Another year he spent $25-30 because he had to buy kneepads and other accessories for his attire to portray Shred, a skateboarding vigilante. Still, he used his own skateboard and he painted a message on the bottom using letters he cut out of cardstock.
“The one thing I always like the most is teaching kids how they can entertain themselves with simple things,” Negus said. “For example, with my cartooning classes I’m showing kids how you can have tons of fun with just pencil and paper. And with this class, I’m showing them, ‘Hey, with just simple items that you may have around the house, you can make some really cool costumes.’ Just showing kids how to make do with what they’ve got – that’s the main thing I get a big kick out of.”
Negus’ class will be held from 2:30-4 p.m. on July 29 and 31 and Aug. 2 in the conference room at the Community Resource Center, 203 N. Cedar St. For the three class sessions plus supplies, the enrollment fee is $20. The class is limited to 10 students.
To enroll, pick up a form at the council office or call the office at 263-1884. The class is sponsored by the arts council.
“I would encourage kids to take it because it’s for art,” Negus said. “Creating is creating, and creating is fun, whether it’s drawing, whether it’s making costumes or sculpting, it can be fun. It’s something for kids to explore.”