Behind the many masks designed by Damselfrau, the Norwegian designer that uses bold and bright colour to create a mystical, arcane and maybe even ocult, world. Beautifully reshaping the face of the wearer, her work is laden with character, suggesting not just individual personalities, but whole narratives, histories and worlds of their own.
The name Damselfrau is inherently contradictory. While ‘Frau’ is a term used for married women, ‘Damsel’ denotes one who is unmarried. combined, they form the paradoxical and provocative pseudonym adopted by artist Magnhild Kennedy—originally as a Skype username, now as a professional alias—that she likes to interpret as ‘married to oneself’. It’s a fitting mantle for an artist who has become renowned for her masks; a craft that involves placing another ‘self’ on top of your own, creating both a combination of the two and suggesting something entirely new altogether.
Originally from Trondheim in Norway, Damselfrau moved to London in 2007. While both of her parents are artists, she herself never formally trained. Rather, Kennedy’s practice originated somewhere a little less conventional: the dance floors of London’s nightclubs. Working at a vintage designer shop in Islington at the time, Kennedy drew inspiration from the collection of clothes around her and was able to sew her own pieces behind the counter, which she would then wear clubbing. Eye-catching, eccentric and strangely seductive, it’s no wonder that mask quickly became her craft of choice.
“I find things everywhere, I have picked fruit netting out of bins.” She explains, “One Christmas in Paris, they decorated the trees of the Champs-Elysées with plastic crystals. Rouge ones had fallen off and been stepped into the dirt pavement and I scratched out pocket fulls. I’ve picked gold confetti off the floor at alternative miss world. Friends bring me things from their travels too. a friend gave me a Norwegian 1700’s hair wreath, a Japanese friend gave me an antique geisha hair piece I crocheted into a mask. old tea towels. I’ll use whatever if it has personality.”
“Just walking out the door is inspiration, really. I live in Dalston. People from everywhere in the world, young and old. Fashion kids. Charity shops. I’ll go to Sir John Soane’s Museum. The Wallace collection. Spitalfields on Thursdays. Dennis severs’ house. Dover street market. A pub.” she continues.
She likes spaces over-informed by the people who use them and live in them. Damselfrau has always felt as she worked mostly like a decorator. Her all time greatest obsession is Versailles. She doesn’t have a particular person in mind, so mher dream collaboration would definitely be with Versailles.