Suzanne Watkins, Elements Earth Friendly Interior Design

The many faces
of design

Artisans don masks for
the annual Gala del Mistero

Gala del Mistero

American Society of Interior Designers, Hawaii chapter awards banquet

When: 5:30 p.m. tonight

Where: Sheraton Waikiki Kauai Ballroom

Masks are magical, and anyone who's seen the extra skip in the step of a 7-year-old once she's slipped on a Cinderella face on Halloween night knows of their power to transform.

A group of magicians in their own right will have an opportunity to see colleagues incognito as they don masks for the masquerade ball "Gala del Mistero," the annual awards banquet of the American Society of Interior Designers at the Sheraton Waikiki.

None of the creations will be of the kiddie variety, however. This is a classy event encompassing an Old World setting, inspired partly by its co-chairmens' recent trip to Venice.

"We wanted something that symbolized excellence," said event co-chair Liz Rineheart, of the theme which translates to "Mystery Gala."

Add to that another level of mystery as to who will be taking home awards, said Rineheart, a salesperson at D&D Furniture, whose projects include redesigning Gov. Linda Lingle's office.

"It's a celebration of designers who are basically artists, and it gives us a chance to let our hair down and get the creative juices flowing."

Hand-crafted by Venitian artists, modeled by Elizabeth Fong

Thus the request for masks as banquet attire. Some were crafted by artisans in Venice and hand-carried back for the soiree; others were handmade by interior designers themselves. A selected few will be put up for auction, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Child and Family Service Domestic Abuse Center.

Those too busy to craft masks of their own won't have to fret, said event co-chairman Liz Teruya, of Architects Hawaii. Masks handmade by committee members can be purchased at the door for a few dollars.

Karen Barozzi, Barozzi Designs, Inc.

Masks allow us to pretend, and much more. For these interior designers, who usually work on a grand scale, their masks are extensions of their philosophies and personalities. We talked to a few to discover what's behind the mask.

Karen Barozzi of Barozzi designs, Inc., approached her mask the same way any interior designer would.

"When we go into a space, we go into the spirit of it," said Barozzi, ASID's 2002 president. "We see its strengths and weaknesses" and work with its strengths, the goal of which is to reflect the spirit of the people who use those spaces.

Her mask, in the shape of a leaf, represents the colors of spring and fall leaves and can be worn or used as a wall hanging.

Barozzi dabbles in acrylic painting and rice-paper collage as well, all reflected in the work that went into her piece.

Whether designing a space or mask, designers work with form and function, said Barozzi. They add a twist of variety to that to keep the space interesting yet cohesive.

Walter Takeda of Chaminade University took a more casual approach to his mask, and said his only inspiration was his love of Venice. "I've been there several times," he said, "It's a city of pageantry, rich in history."

Liz Rineheart, D&D Furniture

Simple as that.

Rineheart, however, would disagree. "Walter's always been ahead of his time."

She held up his mask, laughing. "I think he made this before the MTV awards, and if you look at it, it's two blondes kissing," referring to Madonna's planting the big one on Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at last week's video music awards show.

Takeda, who has been at Chaminade since 1970 teaching art history and some studio courses in the interior design and fine arts programs, said "I did this during my spare time, between classes. It took me about an hour."

THERE'S NO question that style and eco-friendly philosophy can co-exist when looking at Suzanne Watkins' mask.

Walter Takeda, Chaminade University

Her Faerie Queen mask uses non-toxic copper paint, dried leaves, faux butterflies, potpourri, and dried tree fungus that she handpicked from a Manoa trail.

Watkins, an advocate of sustainable design, said her design philosophy in general is to incorporate as many natural materials and earth-friendly products into her designs as she can.

"I try to take advantage of the natural light and tradewinds and use open spaces rather than closed forms," she said.

Watkins, a professor who most recently taught at Chaminade University and now owns Elements, Earth Friendly Interior Design, said she envisioned "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and its aura of magic upon examining her blank mask's leaf shape and papier-mâché texture. She built upon the leaf, employing the copper color in keeping with the fund-raiser's Venetian theme.

"There's supposed to be a magical connection with the mask and its wearer," she said.

Masks similar to the one above, made by interior designers, will be sold for a few dollars to those attending tonight's American Society of Interior Designers awards banquet.

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