My inspiration for Joanna and her mask came primarily from Ovid's "Metamorphoses," which is a book of poetry depicting famous mythological transformations. I wanted to create something with lots of movement, with both organic and unnatural shapes, as if depicting a character in mid-transformation. I decided on a bird because I felt the feathers (though in my case are depicted abstractly) provided a great opportunity for layering and depth. I wanted the coloring to be unnatural and minimalistic, not distracting from the mask's form.
As far as the story goes, I wanted to continue the fairy-tale style of Metamorphoses, and also wanted to create a character that might symbolize my own earthly struggles, rather than an "anti-me." In addition to Metamorphoses, inspiration was drawn from other stories, most notably "The Swan Princess," "Beauty and the Beast," and the poem "Bonny Barbara Allen." Joanna Avis's name is of no real significance (Avis means "bird" in Latin, though)-- actually, her original name was Lucia (reflecting my classical inspiration), but I just stared referring to it as "Joanna" for no reason.
I had a few problems with the mask, primarily with trying to get it to stay on my face. The bottom section of the right cheek also snapped off during baking, and I only had time and materials for a rather shoddy patch job (I'm not trying to make excuses, but it was a very, very busy week for me..)
"Joanna's story comes from a land of fairy tales and magic. Joanna herself was once a studious, reclusive bookkeeper, until, having spurned the love of a young man/warlock with her cold, material indifference, he placed a curse on her. As a result of this curse, Joanna was to live out her days in the guise of a bird, and her nights as a human, until such a time that she learned what was truly valuable in life.
So Joanna-- now nicknamed "Avis," the Latin word for bird-- proceeded, following her logical instinct, to attempt to break the curse as best as she could. However, rather than seeing it as a lesson to be learned, she undertook it actively as a challenge. During the day, she would thus try to do as much good as she could do in her bird form-- helping to guide lost travelers, singing brightly to cheer up passers-by, etc. After such vigorous day time flights, however, Joanna would inevitably sleep away her nighttime hours as a human. Too exhausted (or perhaps, too indifferent) to go into town, she thus misses her only opportunities to interact with other people as an equal.
Clearly, she is missing the point."