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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