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Friday, January 23, 2015

Feather Ethics


We all make mistakes. Ethical questions are sometimes complex.

Ethics: the study of moral standards and how they affect conduct; a system of moral principles governing the appropriate conduct for a person or group (from Encarta Dictionary: English (North America). 

Sultan Rooster

In my most recent blog post, I mentioned my big mistake of over-extending myself so much in my nascent agency that it eventually failed. Was my failure an ethical lapse? I had good intentions and I earned a lot of money for my clients. However, ultimately, some vendors and clients suffered when my business failed. I loved all my clients and I endure lasting remorse that some people were harmed when my health broke down. When your body fails at the end of life, some people's bills may go unpaid. Is that an ethical breach?

Ethics and human interaction with birds: Recently in California, legislation doubled the living space for chickens. To me, chickens are our hardest working game birds. Millions of chickens produce billions of eggs. Each egg yields 6 grams of protein in an important battle against human hunger. Each fertilized egg produces another chicken if properly incubated perpetuating this miraculous process. A cooked one pound chicken has been said to provide more than 300 grams of protein. If your daily diet as a human consists of somewhat more than 50 grams of protein, a chicken goes a long way to contributing to proper nutrition for a family. Perhaps not the Sultan pictured above which is a tiny breed. I'm not going to address the ethics of eating chicken meat. This well established food source has been domesticated for millennia.

I'm all about feathers. Plumage is another by-product of farming birds. Unfortunately fashion and art capture feathers by killing and plucking the birds. Recently Julianne Moore, a favorite actress, was photographed by Hollywood Reporter for the Golden Globes in a gorgeous Givenchy dress that was festooned with Ostrich barbs taken from their stripped feathers. 

Julianne Moore at the Golden Globes
Photo: Hollywood Reporter

My question is: is it ethical to harvest birds for their feathers?

I create art with feathers using only molted bird feathers. We now have 3D photography and print technology. Would it not be more ethical to use molted feathers that have been captured and printed in 3D? I started this blog pointing directly at the critical questions I deal with in my own life. I know I'm not without dilemmas. I'm working in a new technology and hoping to earn income to settle my moral and ethical challenges one day. How can mankind repay the debt to birds and further the fight against improper exploitation and extinctions that are threatened due to the ethical lapses we perpetuate?
Art Ready Macaw Molted Feather
Copyright 2012-15 LM Grimes

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Feather Facts

I'm a visual artist.Yet, I played guitar when I was a boy. I went "pro" and sat in a deep bay window in downtown San Francisco where I sang Joni Mitchell, Donovan, the Beatles and Dylan and cleared enough to live on. Of course living then was a different thing. Inflation came, I put down my guitar and life changed.

Mistakes? Oh yes. 

Probably my biggest was opening my own agency. I was making a comfortable wage working at other agencies. They rewarded me because I could sell IP. Of course then, we barely knew it as intellectual property. Yet, one publishing agreement was asking for rights on Earth's moon. Mostly people scoffed at that.

No, it was books. How quaint, paper between boards. I love them in any format. At Janklow & Nesbit I was known as the go-to guy for audio books. I got high praise from Dr. Morton L. Janklow, my boss and mentor. Just, as I received discerning advice from him about starting an agency. He urged me not to overextend myself. At the time I was thinking this was merely a negotiation ploy to try and get me to stay at a more modest increase than I sought. Yes, I had hubris. I was deluded, of course. It required about ten years for my overextended status to destroy my health, I was attacked by a life threatening disease caused by a previously undiagnosed condition. The physicality of the loss of my health was devastating to me and the eponymous agency I was trying to build.

Then it took time to regain my health. And steady support from friends who guided me.

If something is the opposite of a mistake, that's what happened to me when I got Kazan, the gorgeous, Lizard-backed male canary who sang majestically and stimulated me. A good friend has a favorite retirement residence he supports. They place animals with the elderly residents who improve given the love of their pet companions. Kazan was that kind of tonic for me.

He had such pretty feathers and I got to observe his molting first hand. The first time I saw this I was scared to see his skin showing. On closer inspection, his skin was dotted with pin feathers that were growing in to replace the ones he had lost. I saved the molted feathers. I had no plan but I sensed they were important.

In time I became well. I still stayed home and busied myself with reading, gardening, raising bulldogs and online bridge. Life seemed full. Yet I was drawn to do more with my time. I did not know what, but I could feel the connections starting to form. I joined avian societies and clubs. Their range of interests and information was fabulous. Trading with breeders, I became one myself. My first try with a flock you might call a mistake. I got forty hens. Yes, I wanted eggs, so there was a fine rooster, named Ichabod. He consorted with all of them, maybe every day, and was the happiest of roosters. While they flourished I continued to improve. Kazan sang daily. Life was good and I collected thousands of molted, fancy chicken plumes. I still had Kazan's feathers, and he sang on, as the piles of feathers from other species dwarfed his minute contribution.

In 2008 I returned to college. I still had an itch and it was pretty easy to register at a nearby community college. My assessment tests said I would do well in letters or art. As you know, I had done letters already so despite strong reservations, I took the advice and started taking my first art classes. I mixed them with graphic design and suddenly breathed a big "Ah." I was home. Using feathers from my collection was pretty much a natural solution and then my professors said, "Ah." They loved my "Feather Rishi" (ree' shee). It took some more practice, but by 2011 a couple of my professors strongly urged me to start showing and to try and commercialize my artwork.

to be continued...