Ellie Ericson, a Vancouver-based photographer, traveled to Venice earlier this year with a vision to document the art and craft of mask making. Her story of “The Mask Maker” appears in Issue 3 of Rear Curtain Magazine. Today Ellie shares her experience meeting Hamid and photographing his life’s work.
Nestled in Venice’s Castello Canal district, a stone’s throw from St. Mark’s Square, I came upon a mask shop during an afternoon meander. Charming, colorful and vibrant all at once, I was drawn inside. Crossing the threshold, I was met by a striking display of masks and other artistic pieces that adorned the store from floor to ceiling. Classical music played softly in the background as I wandered within what I can only call a beautiful chaos, an artistic feast for the eyes and other senses. This beautiful space, simultaneously calming in its energy, was a flurry of activity with people milling about fascinated like I was, with the artwork covering every surface.
Amidst a crowd at the back of the store, punctuated with lively conversation and laughter, I could see the artist and owner Hamid, finishing off a presentation, happily talking with the participants and posing for pictures. Being very generous with his knowledge, and eager to share the passion he has for his craft, Hamid schedules daily demonstrations and classes on the art of masks in his workshop space. His body of work ranges widely from the traditional characters of Commedia dell Arte and Carnival to his own uniquely inspired modern designs.
Hamid was an inspiration to be around from the minute we shook hands and he said “Piacere!”. While we danced between speaking Italian, French and English in order to communicate, a wonderful conversation ensued. He immigrated to Italy from Iran over 30 years ago to attend University and study architecture. While traveling through Venice, Hamid discovered the age-old tradition of mask making. He was so taken with this form of art that he immediately set about being an apprentice to learn the craft.
Hamid opened Ca’ del Sol in 1986. Today Ca’ Del Sol is a retail store on one side of the canal and a workshop space on the other. The vibrant energy of the store matches his passion for mask making. In contrast to many of the mask stores I ventured through in Venice, Hamid was very open and welcoming of my interest in his craft and was comfortable with me photographing him while he worked. He made the whole mystique behind the masks and their creation very accessible.
Having left in the political maelstrom of the revolution in the late 70’s Hamid not able to return to Iran and he has no family in Italy. He has devoted himself to his passion of making masks and says that he sees them as his children—they are his family.
To see Ellie’s story in Issue 3, click on the link below to purchase a copy of RC Issue 3. To view more of Ellie’s work, please visit her website.