Artist Spotlight + Inside the Artist Studio of John Flemming

John Flemming’s handmade leather masks are the definition of wearable art. 

“Topan” – An Indonesian word for hurricane or typhoon. It is representative of the circle of life: form to destruction to form.

“My work is the outgrowth of more than 40 years of work in the medium of leather. While continuing to produce a small line of exquisite accessories, more recently, my pieces have concentrated on the sculptural possibilities of leather. I have chosen the mask as a form to explore these possibilities. Inspired by the life forms in nature, these pieces suggest wind, fire, and motion, not usually associated with objects made of this medium.” – John Flemming

John Flemming’s masks are sold in both a “Limited Edition” series and an “Open Edition” series. The “Limited Edition” series are limited to ten copies of each work. After careful drawing, a mask is made in a very rough form to work out its scale, and to create a pattern. Then, as many as 150 pieces of leather are individually cut, dyed a different color on each side, intricately skived, and assembled into a relief form, suggesting the sculpture’s eventual volume.

The entire mask is then soaked in hot water to soften the leather. While still wet, it is attached to a pedestal, to secure it, freeing both of his hands to manipulate the leather. The piece is then heated slowly, in small areas, as it is sculpted entirely “freehand” into its final shape.


“Nuptial Strut” – Observations on the mating ritual of the snowy egrets.

There are no molds or forms used in this process, which takes days. Once the form is achieved, acrylic glazes are then delicately applied to the colors with small brushes to give the work its vibrant color and finish. All masks are eventually mounted on a specially designed rack and
ready to hang on the wall.

Explore more of John Flemming’s masks in his Artist Profile and direct message him for inquiries!