In Forrest Gump a feather lofts noiselessly back and forth on the wind across the screen and slowly makes its way to the ground. The executives who believed in Grooms’ book were forced to champion that film for decades before it was brilliantly executed. Keep this metaphor in mind as you consider what I do in a struggle to put the feather on a pedestal. This may seem a practically weightless and not very serious endeavor but it's not. I save the molted feathers of companion birds and photograph them with a macro-lens.
I study the plume for hours looking for what is distinctive and amazing in it. Part of its virtue is that no bird was ever harmed in its acquisition. After the study, I will eventually design with that feather. I might use it in a work of art or in a fabric or product design. I find that each feather can be used in myriad ways when creating images. I might make an example of decorative art, sometimes repeating only one, sometimes using several in a pattern that is original. I call my art feather rishi.
Molted feathers are lovely until you really look at them closely. Then you notice their flaws. Often they’ve been trampled by another animal, sometimes tasted by one. Insects and other things attack them and the damage can be extensive. The feathers I use in rishis have been repaired by me. My macro-photography will capture the image that is there and then I reconstruct it. I use my acquired skill (Photoshop) and a bucket of patience and take apart the plume in a myriad of proprietary ways, turning a raw “diamond in the rough” into a faceted, polished and gleaming jewel. The process can take upwards of thirty hours or more, in order to capture the perfection my observations have revealed to be the best attributes that feather can present.
When I am done preparing the feather, I have a finished digital painting, a true artifact that is utterly unique because they don’t naturally “fall” that way, but on the bird they look that way. Therein, is my "art" and the paint with which I then make more art.
Obviously I work with feathers. I have passionate ideas and skills. I’m a brand new student following a track for the MFA, just six years into my studies, and my art technique, something I actually invented in school under the encouragement and guidance of caring professors, has been around only a couple years.
Many species of birds have been driven to the very brink or into extinction. A good amount of the damage was done by the fashion industry. Birds molt at least every year. Those molted feathers are considered trash by most observers but in my view they are a treasure. What if they were rescued and preserved? That is what I am doing. Eventually I hope to create an international database of every feather known. This institution would save for posterity a finite library of plumes in digitized form. It would then forever be available to artists like me and to the general and professional groups who might have use for it.
Thank you for reading this blog and considering feather rishi.