Conceptualizing + Progress

Good day, all.

This post is being made for the sake of rounding up the ideas into a single page rather than having it all be scattered all over my personal blog. Everything starting the next paragraph has been taken from, which is also owned by me, therefore there is no intellectual property theft in play.

Log 1 – January 27th, 2021 –

Which brings us to the concept/idea I have for the module brief. This is something I had thought about doing but never had the opportunity to do so. Will be honest, was kind of let down because I had an entirely different idea for the project but a) it simply would not work and b) it is a project I should probably spend more time on, have it be a sort of passion project on the side, rather than something to be assessed.

The idea I decided to go with is that of Dermatillomania. For those who don’t know what that means, here’s a definition:

This is a condition I myself have struggled a lot with for the longest time. I first developed it in first grade of school. I was an early bloomer which means I had my first red bearings as early as age 7, obviously, being surrounded by curious and ill-informed peers, I received a LOT of comments and it had gotten to a point where it was basically picking on me for the fact my face had become a field of blooming cherry blossoms. That’s when it started. I would go on to develop a kind of self-consciousness that would make me subconsciously pick at any imperfections I would come across with the tips of my fingers. As you would expect, that only made it worse, resulting in massive clusters of said imperfections, it had become the bane of my existence. There was a lot of pain, a LOT of it. I have since learned to be more conscious of it but in states of stress, I do find myself resorting to picking at my skin subconsciously, I am still learning to get past it, hopefully, eventually I will have it treated.

With my project, I want to capture the sensations, to put the reader through what I would go through on a regular basis as a child/teenager and sometimes find myself going through in present day. Having seen how flexible the Artist Book can be, I was able to come up with a very personalized experience. I will be getting into it more thoroughly in future posts, but let’s just say there will be a lot of moulding involved. Everything else we need to do for the project (zines, gifs, other) will be made as additional elements that will be included in the book. By that I basically mean that the book will work as sort of a container for these contents. More on that later.

Log 2 – February 9th, 2021 –

I figured I should make a follow-up post to write my idea in the stone. I feel comfortable with the concept I’ve come up with as well as the direction I decided to take it in. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve also kind of started working on the final piece as well. A few days ago I went on Instagram Live to create a face cast, it went quite well – both the livestream and the face cast. It took a couple of tries though as in my first attempt I kept laughing at the comments left by the viewers, the second one, however, turned out pretty well. I’ve been thinking of doing a third one just to seal the deal by having the best quality mask I can, maybe this time doing it on my own so that I would not get distracted too much, haha. Additionally, I should use up any of the leftover mod roc as I really do not need so much of it laying around. Here are photos of the masks as well as some snippets of the process:

The way I wanted to incorporate this mask into my project is by using it as a mold for a silicone pour which would imitate my face and the little imperfections of it, of course, slightly exaggerated for the purpose of  triggering a sense of unease in the viewer. Looking at the inside of the mask, I can see some imperfections that were created in the process of making it which I think only adds to the effect I’m trying to go for.

Before the livestream, I spent a couple of days really thinking about the narrative and sequence side of the project as I realized that I had figured out more of the visual aspect of it and not so much of the concepts behind it. I feel like that was a big mistake on my part as the module is called “Narrative and Sequence” and not “Artist book”. I had a faint idea of what I wanted my narrative/sequence to be but I clearly did not think on it enough before moving on to the visual part of it all. I’ve done some writing in my journal but none of it is regarding the narrative, but rather, how I envision the final piece to look and what components I would like it to be made up of.

UPDATE: 20:59

Made a third mask, this time is came out super well, every corner was captured well, the inner relief is better than the last mask’s and overall, I feel much better about it than I did with the other 2. The first image is of the 2nd mask for comparison.

With this project I want to show a day in the life of someone who suffers from dermatillomania, specifically the triggers, the audible, visual and touchable aspects of it. I want to create 4 layers, the first 3 representing the sensations and the final one – the core – being the mental aspect of it all as that is truly where the issue lies – in the mind – the core of the person. Alongside this I also see myself doing some extra pieces, for instance – an infographic that would document the layers in the style of Dante’s inferno, a booklet made out of latex skin peels that would capture the essence of the degradation of skin of a person suffering from dermatillomania and hopefully some other.

(I did my best to find something that would be similar to the book of faces even in the slightest but to no avail, guess it’s a lot more original than I initially thought..)

UPDATE 12:52 – Realized that the pouch itself has all 3 of the elements that each layer had individually, might be smarter to ease it with the layers (as it would be risking to overcomplicate the artist book as well as the production of it) and instead go for something slightly simpler. The bundle could represent low self esteem, insecurity, exaggeration of the situation that many of the people that have dermatillomania suffer from. The inside of the bundle could be the psychological side of it, showcased through some booklets and such. The masks could be separate items, perhaps even a different final piece for the same topic.

The first outside layer will be tied in with Touch. I thought of an idea of creating a sort of pouch that would include everything inside, but with a slight twist. It will have a face on it as well as some “skin imperfections” to go with it.

(Again, really nothing similar to be found on the internet to show as a reference..)

The closest to a reference is the King’s Egg from Berserk (1990 – Manga, 2016 – Anime, both by the same title. Creator – Kentaro Miura)

The bag would be made from an old, withered piece of canvas fabric that I accidentally brought from home. It really was not planned but I was looking through my boxes for potential materials and came across a small roll of grandma’s beige canvas. Upon touch I realized that this is just perfect. It’s smooth but also not, my sensitive fingers were able to pick up on the texture that I’ve grown to familiarize myself with, it’s very much like what it feels to touch my face sometimes (from a personal stand point).

The second layer will be incorporating the Visual aspect and that is where I will be using the mask I talked about earlier in the post. 

The third will be the Audible part and I still have not figured this part out fully but one idea I had is having another head under the silicone cast that would have many textures on it that would make the sounds closest to what I hear on the inside when scratching/touching my face. That, or a set of tablets that would pose the same purpose. Or, another option, stopping with the head casts and making a booklet describing the noises and incorporating more visuals.

However, that would clash a bit with the 4 layer – the core – which I was also planning to make in the form of a zine that would also pose a commentary on the process of developing dermatillomania and later “practicing” it. By making these zines for my zine workshop I would save time and would essentially hit 2 birds with 1 stone, not too sure if that will be allowed though.. Will find that out tomorrow.

Log 3 – February 13th, 2021 –

This section can be skimmed through as it is labeled as “rambling” on my personal blog, not much is said here, just writing all of my ideas and thoughts down so that I don’t lose them later on.

After 3 days of absolute radio silence, I am back to work! Really felt like I had to take a few days off to rest because things had just gotten a tad bit overbearing for some reason. Like my friend said yesterday – I don’t want to make any excuses but lockdown be kinda affecting us negatively, huh? Feels like another wave of lockdown blues is upon a part of us all. Hope you’re at the very least doing alright regardless, though. I don’t even remember the last few couple of days all that well, it’s all just a big blur, when I do remember what went on, it kind of feels surreal and I end up questioning everything. It’s not a pleasant period, that’s for sure, but it’ll eventually be ok, just have to pummel through till then. At least 

From this point on I will focus more on the project that I am currently working on so if you’re not too familiar with the project or my idea for it, I’d suggest reading up on these 2 posts to “catch up” if you haven’t. Click here to read the initial post introducing the project and here for some development. (I will talk about the topic and the ideas I have further down in the post but clicks/views are always appreciated)

I realized after my tutorial that even though I do have a lot of it settled already, there is not much substance or I guess clear direction just yet. My tutor pointed out that there was not enough of the personal element, or at least not as much as my presentation made there out to be – and that’s true – I always get caught up in figuring out how my project will look that I sometimes end up forgetting what I initially wanted to go for conceptually. Which is why I am making this post now, to sort of cement my concept and fully develop it along the way. I will probably write a lot, hence the title of the post. 

I think the best first step one can take when cementing a concept is explaining the topic/theme that they wish to tackle with their project as understanding your topic is key to a good result.

The topic of my project is Dermatillomania, or rather, my personal experience with Dermatillomania, Dematillomania through my eyes, however you wish to put it, but regardless, it is a commentary on the condition from a personal standpoint. I feel like that is what I kind of what I lost when developing the concept as I really focused more on – as my tutor put it – making it physically unpleasant to look at, but that’s about it, nothing about my ideas which I presented were hinting at the personal experience part of it. I had some concepts tied into it, but unfortunately, my anxiety kicked in when talking and I got a tad bit lost and forgot what I wanted to say. It wasn’t a lot of ideas but still, felt a bit displeased with myself for not bringing them up.

So what is that personal experience? What is special or unique about it? Why is it something that stuck with me up till present day and will probably haunt me for years to come? What was the cause of my disorder? Why did I do what I did? Why do I still “practice” it? What do I want to say with my piece? What emotions do I want to evoke in the viewer? These are the questions that I should’ve asked myself on day 1. I really should work on how I approach projects initially so as not to have half of that work and time go to waste basically.

At the moment, I have some loose ideas that I would love to work on for the final piece but there is an issue of how I would put it into a single batch and have it make sense. Initially I was thinking of making a bag/pouch/bundle out of my grandma’s old canvas that I brought with me, but after some thinking, I figured I’m not skilled enough with sewing (hell, I have no experience besides some embroidery) to attempt that at this point. It might be better off as a loose piece – a sort of ball that would have facial features and would have little holes in it, from which the viewer would have to pull out small stuffed balls that would have letters on them, spelling out the names I used to be called in my earlier years, for instance: “Frankenstein”, “Leper”, “Sickly/Diseased”, “Public Health Threat” and other that fit into that category. I’ve had some other “insults” which were a bit more light-hearted such as “Rudolph” and “Cherry blossom” but I feel they would not fit into the mix as much and would be better off being used in another piece of the project or maybe even later in the future should I decide to revisit the concept/topic. I should probably mention that I would not be using all of the names in that single item as it would just become overfilled and way too complicated. Using a single or a couple would be best I feel. 

The one I remember most vividly is “Frankenstein” and I think it also has some level of misconception/irony to it. It’s a common mistake for people to refer to the monster as Frankenstein, even though that is the name of the scientist who created him. Naming a piece/incorporating the word into the piece would butt at the fact that every single one of the kids/teenagers that called me a Frankenstein were simply uninformed or just didn’t know any better but weren’t willing to correct themselves because they were, well.. kids/teenagers.

“Rudolph” or “Cherry Blossom” I see being good for making a comic/zine. “Rudolph” has potential with tying in with the Christmas story of Rudolph the deer or even going an alternative route of wanting your nose “stolen” by your parents because you’re so over having everyone calling you names because of it. “Cherry Blossom” could have some plays with seasons or even deforestation or other.

The other names aren’t really something I would like to revisit as there is really no way I could make light out of being called “Contaminated”, “Disgusting”, “Diseased” and other, those were just plain hurtful for the sake of being hurtful. Unless I figure out a way to represent the “hurtful” bit of it, I will not be using these in my project.

Going back to the idea of the bag/”plush” with extractable balls, the way it would be personal is by making the viewer interact with my “face”, making them sort of experiences the sensations of touching my skin and having to pick out these imperfections and whatnot. Another point is the element of subconsciousness – meaning I will do my best to not feature imagery of myself “practicing” skin picking, but rather, leave it up to the viewer to be the hands in this situation. Nodding to the idea of me not really being conscious for the most part when I pick at my skin, thus being “separated” from my hands/not having control over them. This is a concept I want to carry out throughout the entire project.

Another idea I had and later had tutors greenlight was creating a small collection of sheets of faces using latex and binding them together to make a sort of flipbook of faces, a face book per se. In it, I would document the progression of the worsening of the situation on my face. I presented this idea in my last tutorial and was told it was alright, but a personal element would make it even better, most notably, additionally to the physical degradation, also putting a focus on the decaying mental state too. I got some suggestions on how to go about it – one of them includes incorporating (damn, I really like using this word all of a sudden) type in the booklet, writing my thoughts out on the other side of the page – the inside of the latex face. I had an idea to go with that but in a slightly different route – typing out these thoughts about my skin/face on the outside, on the face itself, but writing it mirrored, so that you could only read it on a reflective surface, as that is really when these thoughts jump out – when you see yourself. I also think leaving the eyes cut out would pose for an interesting reading experience, as the viewer would be suggested to look through my eyes, putting my skin on in order to read the story/thoughts. Making the viewer look at themselves in the mirror as they read these bodies of text on the masks they wear I believe is the definition of making someone see the world through your eyes and holds a lot of potential to play with other aspects such as touch and sound. I could manipulate the surfaces of the mask to differ with each stage and each imperfection could have a different texture and the different textures/reliefs could possibly make different sounds, would just have to figure out how to make it work/be accurate. Though, I don’t think exaggerating it would be too much of an issue. Writing this out I come to the realization of how much potential this holds, might end up making this as the main/center piece..

There were some other ideas I had with making a box or some sort of a container but I don’t think I have the time or the resources for that at the moment and will only look into it in the case of finishing my final pieces earlier, but I doubt that will happen.. Might end up just making a set of items that would be separate from each other for the final piece instead, but should probably talk with a tutor regarding this idea.

I think for now that is all I have to say about the solid ideas I have so far. Will most likely be making updates to this post until it is time for the next tutorial. Thinking of always doing this from now on, just making a single post per week in between tutorials, that could be better for documenting developments and such.

Log 4 – February 19th – March 1st, 2021 –

I’m back with a semi-long post in which I will be sharing and explaining the final concept that I have officially developed for the artist book! The reason I put “I think” in brackets is because I am not fully sure. I kinda have been going through it recently and because of it, I’ve been struggling with keeping up with the course program generally and I somehow managed to completely miss the booking of the tutorials that were held yesterday. Like I remember reading the email but for some reason I didn’t book it? Just feels like I’ve been in a semi-coma these last couple of weeks for “some reason”. It’s a weird state but hopefully it’ll end soon, there’s not enough time to feel all existential right now, haha. I have barely started anything and there’s just so much that needs to be done should I decide to go with this concept in particular. Hopefully it will be greenlit next Wednesday in the tutorial. Until then, I will probably make updates to this post by including images and all that. 

Before I get into explaining it, I thought I should make a disclaimer saying that some of the things I’ll be covering next could come across as insensitive but I would just like to note that this is all based on personal experience but exaggerated just a tad bit for the sake of being effective and unique. My intention is not to portray dermatillomania as something unearthly, all I want to show is what it feels being in the skin of someone with that disorder, or at least how I felt at points. 

Generally I feel like I’ll be taking a bit of a risk since as much as I am a fan of horror, I have never really done anything of that sort previously, the closest I’ve been to doing something in the horror genre was when developing my grad piece for high school (post on that coming at some point) but later decided to switch to a more psychology-orientated theme and adjust it in a way that would be appropriate for the piece itself. This time, I want to try and incorporate horror into the piece and show it from a perspective that it might not have ever been explored in. What’s good is that I’m talking from a personal stand point, I have experienced this and therefore have the right to portray it how I wish to without fearing the consequences of misrepresenting the experiences of those who have suffered from dermatillomania as well.

And now, the finalized (sorta) concept itself. Here is a mood board that I have created for it:

References: Dragula Season 2 Episode 1 – Victoria Elizabeth Black’s Cenobite (from Hellraiser) inspired look; Possession (2012) – Abizu’s chest; Goodnight Mommy (2014) – post-surgery bandages; The Conjuring 2 (2016) – music box of terrors; murder trophies of the Plainsfield Butcher – mask made of actual human skin, utensils with bones for handles, skin fragments and other.

I have decided to make my artist book in the form of a crate/chest in the “fashion” of the trophy boxes of elusive serial killers but instead of having trophies inspired by the experiences of others, I will be showcasing my personal journey with the condition and how I have come far since its initial development in terms of the frequency at which I pick my skin and the self-control I have developed with it – that would be portrayed through the objects I plan to put in this said chest. The concept doubles as a container for the thing which “possessed” me in my earlier years – hinting at the concept of a contained insidious/sinister force. The reason I think the idea of a possession works well here is because many of sufferers of dermatillomania (including myself) say that they usually don’t realize they’re picking at their skin until a certain point and then having no recollection of doing so, almost as if a force had taken over their brain and made them “do it”.

The inside of the chest will have a mirror installed, hinting at the idea that only from the inside (of the box) can you perceive yourself, meaning each individual has their own idea of what they look like, even if they’re seen completely different by those on the outside. The mind is known to play tricks on us and fully distort and exaggerate any feature of our body that it has trouble registering. On the outside of the chest, I am thinking of stretching and gluing down latex faces all around. These casts would be smooth with no imperfections – hinting at the concept I mentioned a few sentences ago – the perception from an outside perspective. The items inside of the chest would signify memories of past stages of the disorder, hinting at the idea of this sticking with those who have experienced it and those insecurities and bad memories still lingering at the back of their minds.

UPDATE (01/03/2021) – Spent a big portion of last night working on the box itself, the inside of it to be more exact. Still needs perking and editing but with some extra touches it could look really good.

I started by painting the entire box a darker shade of brown which I made using brown, purple, red, chestnut brown, magenta and a bit of black to make it darker. Then I tried painting some “gore” on the very bottom of the box, but after realizing it looked wonky, I decided to mix up a fleshy looking latex colour. I was uncertain where it would work or not, but ended up taking the risk and pouring it into the box without much thought. It was a messy process and took a whole while to work around but in my eyes, it turned out great. I’m rather fond of how it turned out considering it was a major risk. It really paid off. Now all I need to do is apply extra layers on both ends as well as the sides of the inside of the box, finish it off with talcum powder and glue on the plexiglass mirror I purchased for it. I’m glad I decided to do a fleshy inside as opposed to keeping it a regular dark as it adds more spice to the box itself, not only that, it compliments the idea of the box being a sort of stylized replica of my head.

UPDATE (02/03/2021) – I have installed the mirror onto the lid.

I will add some extra layers a bit layer to really stick the mirror into place as well as have a more natural looking relief at the bottom of the box. Thinking of smearing some latex on the sides of the mirror to make it appear more oval-esque to have it look like what it looks like looking out of the inside of my own body.

The mirror will also be a functional tool to read one of the items in the box – a booklet which will be made up of sheets of latex face casts that will have eyes and nostrils open, making it possible to wear them on one’s face. On the outside of it, I will write some of the thoughts I used to/still have when looking in the mirror. The text will be mirrored, so the only way to read it will be by holding the face up in front of a mirror (taking a picture of it and mirroring it is also possible but where’s the fun in that?), that’s where the mirror of the box comes in. If worn on the face, it should make for a rather unpleasant experience that is rather reminiscent of what it’s like to be in my shoes – an uncomfortable weight on the face, words/thoughts echoing on the inside, touching your own face and hearing the sounds of your complexed skin. The way I want to go about making the booklet/faces is by making it in this order – worsening, getting better, worsening and getting better; I think having 13 casts would be more than enough, might have to reconsider the number if I decide it’s too much.

UPDATE (01/03/2021) – After creating some test masks using latex I figured I should make the booklet using paper mache that would be coated with latex as opposed to a full on latex cast. The latex facecasts are simply too floppy and hard to work with, additionally, they’re not as flat as I had wished they would be. The casts I have already made won’t go to waste though as I will use them to decorate the lid of the box by stretching 2-3 across.

Another object I have considered including in the box is a small stuffed plush ball which would be made of old canvas fabric. The ball would have some facial feature reminiscent to those I possess. I will do my best to make it squishy and interactive for the purpose of making it seem like a stress ball, butting at the idea of correlation between this disorder and stress/anxiety. Growing up I didn’t know about the existence of destressers, so my face was kind of the only thing I had to touch and pick at to release tension. I think including some objects you can detach or extract from it would do a great job at stimulating the sensation and possibly the satisfaction of removing something from a pore – it’s addictive.

UPDATE (01/03/2021) – In a tutorial, I was told that spelling out the word “Frankenstein” is not necessary as the aesthetic of the ball as well as how I plan to make it (and is sketched out in the book) hints at it being exactly that. I could use “Frankenstein” for another item that I was suggested to make – a drawstring bag with some paper strips with all the names that have stuck around in my mind to this point in time. Additionally, I was suggested to make some zines to go along with the artist book, one of which I have already created the foundation for during a zine workshop we had last week.

Log 5 – March 11th, 2021 –

This log won’t be too long as I will only be covering my process of creating the plush. There isn’t much of a process as most of it was just me winging it to be honest, the only thing I really thought through was the base of the plush as well as the craters scattered around it. Before I start getting into the process I would just like to note that I have never sewn anything before, only ever done some embroidery but that was nothing compared to the nightmare that was sewing, haha. I’d say for a first time – the end result is not too bad but it can always be better. I suppose the fabric used didn’t really help out my case either as it is very delicate and fragile, most time the ends would come loose and the fabric would start falling apart, making me have to leave the ends exposed as opposed to stitching in a way that would make them be less visible. Another thing – I am not too familiar with the terminology associated with sewing so some terms may not make too much sense, so bear with me!

Without further ado, here is the semi-finished plush!

I say semi-finished as at the point of writing this I still have not attached the little bulbs to the threads which come out of the crater. However, I have figured out a way on how to do it – by cutting up some sponges so that they would be at least a bit spherical, then dipping them in latex a few times so that it would form a sturdy latex shell, sprinkling it with some talcum powder and making it stop being sticky.

The first part consisted of figuring out the separate pieces of the plush and how they would conjoin with one another. This is where I was able to use some of my Pepakura knowledge to make a pattern that would work out in the end. For those unfamiliar with the term – Pepakura is the craft of making paper models. I have never created a single pattern but in my years I was able to create a few models using patterns which I downloaded off of the internet, one of which I was able to turn into a planter using the paper model, paper mache and some plaster of paris! Sadly, I don’t have a picture of it right now. But back to the current project.. I think overall I did a good job figuring out how I should go about it but in retrospect, I could’ve edited some bits so that it would not look as awkward in some areas as it does right now, most notably – the craters, specifically – the rings that connect the crater to the ball.

The size of the crater was quite honestly perfect for the concept, only a single finger fits into it so it will be quite the struggle to pull the bulbs out of it, which is very reminiscent of what it’s like to do that in real life – sometimes it takes more than one pick, but when you start, you simply cannot stop until it’s out. Then you move towards the other pore, then the other, then another one, and another one, and another one, all until you’re satisfied or can’t take the pain anymore.

Next was the shell itself and it was very tedious of a task as I had to think how to apply the craters in a way that it would not be hard to reach/attach the following one. Generally I think I handled it quite well, but there were some points where I felt like setting fire to the orb. 

Next came the face itself and that was also quite difficult, especially because I did not sketch any of the pieces out and fully winged it. the only thing I did make a quick pattern for was the nose and even then it was just so that I would have at least some power over how big it would end up being. However, I made a small oopsie and ended up making a rabbit snout instead of a human nose. Though, it doesn’t really bother me to be honest, I think it looks even better that way, a lot more stylistic. A bit contradictory to my initial idea as I wanted to make it resemble my face, but I really don’t think it’s that big of an issue, besides, the way the face turned out is kind of what I see myself as at some points, usually once I have shaven my facial hair.

And finally, last night, I was able to stuff it and seal it off fully! In hindsight, I wish I had planned out where I would be finishing it off. I made the face section last and it is the last wall that I needed to attached to the ball itself, therefore the closing is on the right side of it and it looks rather rough around the edges, next time I think doing it on the very back on the plush would be a much better shout.

But! Alas! It is finished nonetheless! The pores pull out and are possible to push in, the face turned out rather well and it goes so well with the interior of the box somehow. The colour of the fabric compliments the maroon/burgundy latex well.

It would probably be smartest to do the zine a similar colour and limit the overall project palette to Brown/Burgundy/Yellow/Beige. I’m so glad I managed to finish at least 1/3rd of the box’s objects, will have to pummel some more in order to finish the rest, but I feel like the plush was the one that required the most time and effort and the rest are rather simple in comparison and have a sort of foundation that I can work off of already. Feeling ok but honestly not too confident just yet. Hopefully the tutorial tomorrow will help fix that. So excited to finish this finally!

Finalized piece


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