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Cambridge artist creates unique and colourful facemasks



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Trapped in China during the first lockdown while visiting family, LuHuang found a novel way to pass the time by making unique and colourful facemasks.

LuHuang at work
LuHuang at work

Having lived in the UK for 14 years, previously in London, LuHuang – who also goes by the name Rose – went back to her native country to see relatives in early 2020. Unable to leave the country due to strict lockdown rules, in March that year she set about creating the masks.

LuHuang came back to the UK in March this year and set up home in Cambridge. Her ‘creature’ masks – an amalgamation of the words ‘creativity’ and ‘culture’ – have been featured in magazines, including Vogue, and photographs of professional models wearing them were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2020 as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.

LuHuang says: “Under the very dark skies, I started to create some masks because it was such a scary time. Masks, to me, are a symbol of restriction, but we had no other way to feel free and we had to stay home as well.

“So basically I wanted to change something ugly and scary into something good. I just wanted to find some way to break the very bad feelings, and once I started it really helped because I began to focus on my thoughts, my imagination, and how to use the materials. All the masks are handmade by me and from my original ideas.”

One of LuHuang’s masks
One of LuHuang’s masks
One of LuHuang’s masks
One of LuHuang’s masks

LuHuang – whose masks were nominated for a BFC (British Fashion Council) Changemakers Prize – continues: “I use natural materials because I really admire nature; I think nature creates beautiful colours and shapes. I am very keen to use diverse, natural things, like different flowers... It is a kind of artistic spirit to be unique, so I did hundreds of them and each one is different.”

They might not, of course, be ideally suited to the bus or the supermarket. “It’s not for daily protection,” explains LuHuang, who is originally from the city of Chengdu but left to study and work in Beijing for eight years before moving to the UK. “It’s an artistic creation, so I always tell people this is not the mask to protect you from coronavirus.”

LuHuang has continued making her masks in Cambridge, a city she moved to on the recommendation of a friend who graduated with a PhD from the University of Cambridge whom she met in Shanghai.

“At that time I just wanted to find a peaceful place to live less complicated than London,” she says. “I really love the environment here. I’m now living near the river and nature is so close, and I can see the cows.”

One of LuHuang’s masks
One of LuHuang’s masks
One of LuHuang’s masks
One of LuHuang’s masks

LuHuang’s background is in business and finance and she began her artwork around six years ago. “In about 2015, I started creating butterflies out of dead leaves,” she recalls, adding that these artworks have been featured in various Chinese newspapers.

One of LuHuang’s masks
One of LuHuang’s masks
One of LuHuang’s masks
One of LuHuang’s masks

“I collect the dead leaves that fall on the ground and I try to turn them into butterflies. I paint and cut them and use my hair to embroider them – I leave my DNA inside my creations. I have created more than 3,000 butterflies and each one is different. Then I found some celebrities in China to wear them and the media interviewed me.”

LuHuang has collaborated with a number of well-known photographers, including British author, photographer and journalist Michael Freeman. “I’d like to make a collection of photographs of diverse faces wearing the masks and put all the images online,” she says, “and if people view them, they would pay something towards a charity.”

LuHuang with one of her creations. Picture: Keith Heppell
LuHuang with one of her creations. Picture: Keith Heppell

Follow LuHuang on Instagram using the handle luhuang.art.

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