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Saturday, October 13, 2012

In Honor of the Turkey

Feather Rishi continues to spread its wings. I've discovered new ways to use it and new ways to implement the technique. My first licensee is launching this fall. I'm looking for new manufacturers and designers who might want to use my art in their lines.

40"x40" 16mm Silk Twill

As we come into the holiday season, many of us find our thoughts turning to times spent with family and friends. Cooking is a big thing at this time of year.

I was taught how to cook at my mother's elbow. She was better than average and I learned everything she knew and went on to try things she never dared. Eventually I became a professional cook. I was barely out of my teens and got a job in Keith's San Francisco House Restaurant. That "qualified" me for the job of chef at Maharishi International University in La Antilla, Spain.
Like you, I've been roasting turkeys all my life. I used to have a big ego about just about everything, so I thought I knew it all about turkeys. It didn't dismay me when I heard about fried turkeys, although it should have sent me some signals I was not the big know it all I thought I was.

I went back to school recently. One of the biggest lessons I totally learned was that I was not actually the big know it all. In fact I learned there was much to learn and now I have a healthy respect for my late education and growth. So, this week, when I started to roast that 15-pounder, I decided to see what trusty old Irma Rombauer had to say about roasting a turkey.

Almost everything I read was familiar but what about the part describing how to put the bird in the pan? She taught me if it's roasted breast up, the breast will cook before the thighs and deeper places in the bird, thus dry out. She said to either roast back up or on its side. I tried the side method, roasting 1 1/2 hours before flipping on the other side. This looked very unnatural but I have faith in the Joy of Cooking. After the other 1 1/2 hours, the breast got turned up for 30 minutes to brown and it was the most moist and best texture of any I've ever done.
My mother was so proud of me. When I returned from Spain, where I got to feed natural food to over a thousand meditators, I astonished her with tales of how I ordered shovels for spoons to turn the contents of the huge pots. I wonder what became of my friends in that kitchen? We had such great holidays together.
I hope this finds you well and in the best of health. Enjoy your holidays with friends and family. Wishing you all the best.
Please visit my art page on Facebook. I hope you like it!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The Scarlett Macaw rosette you see is made from a single feather. The design is constructed on a 40” square. That is the size of my large scarves. I recently received a grant to make a line of sample silk scarves. I’m starting to introduce them. One of the first things I heard when I began test marketing was that my scarves were so beautiful they belonged in a museum. I’ve learned that museum shops around the world are selling scarves. Mostly they sell merchandise derived from their own exhibits. Sometimes they make an exception when they see something irresistible.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


What got you thinking about feathers?

I’ve always thought about them. My mother was a torch singer in night clubs and she wore a lot of feathers and lame. I collected feathers whenever I could find them. When I started keeping companion birds, I saved all the molted feathers wondering how to put them to use. Feed bills for birds are high. At first we used the feathers in analog artworks called feather paintings. But it was when I took graphic design and I needed object images for my student projects that I truly discovered feathers.

How do you do your intricate designs?

I’ve called the process “feather rishi” in honor of the ancient Egyptian rishi which inspired my work. Using photos of feathers in Photoshop, I organize my designs along geometric as well as asymmetrical plans. It’s necessary to manage a lot of layers to get my effect.

How long does it take to make a feather rishi?

That’s tough to answer. It depends on how ready the elements are when you start. Getting the elements ready can take a long time. Cleaning up feathers and dropping out the backgrounds are crucial and they take hours.

Can you really put feathers on any surface?

I don’t see why not. Feather finery has been popular through the ages. Fabrics were a natural, but rugs, flooring, wall paper, stationary, table ware are just a few of the possibilities. Imagine how challenging a puzzle could be. Feathers often look alike, but each one is different, just like snowflakes, little jewels.

What is most challenging about the photography?

Feathers have curved surfaces. A macro lens has a very narrow field of focus. It can require half a dozen exposures married to get the appropriate lighting and focus. It’s surprising how tricky it can be.

What is your favorite feather?

It’s the one I have in my hands at the moment. I’ve never seen a feather I didn’t like or couldn’t use in a feather rishi.

How many feathers do you own?

I don’t own any. I have a dwindling collection of thousands. As I use them, I recycle them back into the world. That’s not the number that’s important. I have more than a hundred feather rishis since I started and I can produce many more with my collection.

Who gets the money from your work?

Part of the proceeds from sales and licenses of feather rishi will go back to the birds in several ways. Of course there is feed and veterinary care, but also to rescues.  I look forward to getting out of debt and making an independent living.

What is your favorite bird?

I love so many of them, but perhaps my favorite is the golden pheasant. Sweet natured, they’re bright and domesticate quite easily. I’ve used their feathers in many of my works.

What will you do next?

I received a grant to produce sample scarves by printing my designs on silk. Next comes test marketing.

© 2012 Lewis Mark Grimes

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Feather Rishi and Hope


Hope is the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Despair is the opposite of hope. Hope is the "feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best". "To cherish a desire with anticipation", "to desire with expectation of obtainment"; or "to expect with confidence". In the English language the word can be used as either a noun or a verb, although hope as a concept has a similar meaning in either use.

Licensing is an interesting way to earn money on Intellectual Property. I feel that intellectual property is a hopeful phrase.  It came together one day when I was looking at an Egyptian rishi and I realized I had a huge feather collection. Like a door opening. The way I use feathers now informs my life and the time I get to spend at the computer working with these amazing artifacts is bliss. Graphic design and photography gave me the tools but the leap of faith came directly from the feathers themselves and what the ancient Egyptians had done with them.

Rishi is a feather pattern. 

Feather pattern”, it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But some individual feathers have striking, absurd, glorious, unbelievable patterns. The time and consideration that goes into the collection, photographing and then moving about individual plumes can eat up a day. But when I see what I’ve done, it fills me full of hope. Maybe there is logic in the world.

My best digital feather rishis are brain teasers that make the eyes dance. Figuring out how the pattern on a feather goes together with other feathers, can take a week or more to solve.  Being in school has made it difficult to devote the kind of time that I would like. It’s summer, so I recently started showing my designs. I’m very encouraged. I already have a couple of licenses but I will hold off announcing what they are until the merchandise is available for sale. Before that, it’s intellectual property and hope.

Copyright 2012 Lewis Mark Grimes

Monday, June 11, 2012

FEATHER RISHI and Licensing Expo 2012

“…in reality, the Titanic’s doomed hold contained…the most valuable class of merchandise aboard, one that warranted insurance claims of more than $2.3 million in today’s currency, was feathers. The ship contained more than 40 cases of fine plumes bound for the milliner shops of New York City, and in the spring of 2012 feathers ranked as one of the highest priced commodities in the world. By weight, only diamonds were more valuable.”
Adapted from FEATHERS, by Thor Hanson

Of course, reading that I was really encouraged.  Feathers are the most fascinating objects I have ever worked with and with any luck,  with their endless shapes, patterns, textures, I can get them to speak to others the way their beauty speaks to me. With my photographs feathers are given a new life after being cast off in a molt. My patterns are called Feather Rishi. I would like to license feathers for every surface.

Here is a product design from the Melinda suite. This Melinda mug is made of cockatoo, Yellow Golden pheasant, Reeves  pheasant and black Polish chicken. Other designed products in the Melinda line include, table cloths, place mats, platters, trays and other table ware.



The lead image is a Golden pheasant ruff feather
 Copyright 2012 Lewis Mark Grimes

Friday, June 1, 2012

Passion About Feathers

College life has been good to me. I just completed a 4.0 semester with an overall GPA of 3.8. Today I have another story to tell.

Two months ago when I exhibited my work, it got noticed. I’m a new artist. I studied numerous art forms like this example of my painting. 

But Graphic Design proved to be my story. It took me a semester to get my feet wet. Suddenly with the power of a computer I was able to re-composite feathers into my own patterns. It was a surprise at first, an unintended side effect of keeping companion birds.

They were happy birds. I used to be suspicious of people who kept birds. I would think, “How cruel to cage a creature that can fly.” Then, I was given a singing angel, a canary who taught me about birds. He was born in captivity, never knew anything but a cage and if I let him go outside he wouldn’t have lasted a day. He lived a long, happy life and sang with more force and clarity than I have learned is usual. How do I know birds are happy in a flight? The best examples are the ones that return to their cages. I also had pheasants. They are majestic birds that have informed many of my designs. When I released the goldens into the yard, I learned the males would stay although they would dwindle due to predators.  Pheasants are game birds just like chickens and mostly easy to domesticate.  They inspire my work.

People tell me my art is unique. God bless Photoshop. I’m also lucky to have a great molted feather collection. If you have a rare or exotic feather and you want to see it preserved forever in digital form, please consider lending it to me for macro photography. I’ll return it.

I’m very flattered by the reaction to my new work. I feel honored that life is giving me a chance to do something productive with my passion.  

© 2012 Lewis Mark Grimes

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Feathers to Live For

Rachel Nuwer in her blog Feathers to Die For makes some very good points about how birds can be mistreated. But it is not necessary to harm a bird to receive the gift of its feathers. Birds molt their feathers frequently. If you are patient and wait for them, the feathers are delivered ready for washing and preparation for use in art and fashion. It is best to give birds a lot of room so their feathers will remain pristine. Collecting them is as much fun as finding Easter Eggs.

My digital rishi process is harmless to the avian species I cherish. After gathering the molted feathers, I wash and prepare them for photography. Photographing feathers is not easy. They have curved planes and come in irregular shapes. Lighting them is tricky but not nearly as much of a challenge as dropping out their backgrounds, a technique used in Photoshop, prior to the real work.

Turning feathers into art using photography is the wave of my future. I get to make satisfying patterns and designs for use on textiles, rugs, wall coverings, paper goods and you name it. I'm in college heading for my master's degree in Surface Design. I hope when I'm finished with the world it will be covered in feathers.

(c) 2012 Lewis Mark Grimes

Feather Fascination and Forrest Gump

Pheasant feather chart
Feathers have been a lifelong fascination. Long before Forrest Gump opened with that mesmerizing feather, I spent my childhood tying flies from feathers of native birds in Alaska. I was not an especially avid fisherman, but I admired the beautiful patterns and colors I could create with my handmade fishing lures. Feathers filled the down parkas and ski clothes we used as kids and the seabirds that used to dive bomb us were distinguished by their feather finery.
But it was not until I started keeping game birds that I noticed feathers might have a place in art. I was fascinated with the molting process of the birds living with me. They shed their feathers, sometimes more than once a year, depending on the weather and the time of season. Molted feathers are like jewels. Even the most “common” feathers have interesting patterns, colors and shapes.
Here is a chart I adapted showing the feathers and where they can be found on a pheasant. While this work is mine, it is an adaptation of another chart I found. Note the different shapes. If these individual feathers are reassembled, they create a magnificent painted creature. My partner and I got to thinking, what if we took the molted feathers and used them as the medium to paint art objects? That is where the idea came from for the first feather paintings that were constructed from real feathers glued to a form that could be displayed. We used a nom de plume, Thoroughgood Wellbee. That was my first venture into feather painting. Now there are numerous artists who actually use paint on feathers and they call the technique feather painting. As far as I knew, we were unique in the use of feathers as the paint. That later turned out not to be exactly correct.
It turns out I was not the first to use this technique. I have not seen the examples, but I’ve been told others used feathers inside a picture frame, perhaps in the 1950s. They were similar to the butterfly wing designs we also sometimes see. If you have one of the first feather paintings, I would love to see a picture of it. I hope you will like my versions.
"Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get," is a paraphrase of Forrest's mother's philosophy. I feel that way about feathers and art. They come together in an interesting mosaic that reminds me of a kaleidoscope.

(c) 2012 Lewis Mark Grimes