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Joined: 08 Nov 2007
Posts: 869
Location: Louisville KY
PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 1:42 pm Reply with quote

Feather Fetish
by Sherri Marcoski, Kentucky

It happens every summer. It’s so predictable, it’s almost scary. The hot summer days begin to grow shorter. The peacocks molt their incredible trains. Although I visit the aviaries a few times each day, this is the time of year I dread. It’s like an affirmation that I need to consult a mental health professional. I can’t help it - I want to collect and save nearly all of those feathers.

Most of us collect the train feathers for display, but my compulsion extends to the neck and saddle feathers. How can you resist their iridescent, multicolored beauty? How can you look at those vivid patterns and tiny teardrops and leave them on the ground? Every time I walk the aviaries, I tell myself, “Don’t EVEN look down - you already have tons of feathers.” Aw heck. I pick them up anyway. I want to find ways to share the wonder of these magnificent birds.

So what do you do with all those feathers? How do you use them? I’m sure we all have a vase or umbrella stand with feathers. A few years ago, my sister commissioned an artist to make a peacock-themed vase for my birthday. The artist grows her own gourds, hand-paints them and decorates them. The gift I received is just stunning, and it holds a large assortment of the longest feathers.

There are lots of other ways to use feathers for arts and crafts. One of my hobbies is creating handmade note cards. I’ve used the blue and teal neck feathers to embellish and accentuate various card designs. Rubber stamped images often lend themselves to decoration with feathers. Those wispy blue neck feathers are so brilliant and eye-catching. What a whimsical way to accessorize a stamped hat or architectural image!

Feather jewelry is very elegant and just plain FUN. The neck and saddle feathers make lovely earrings. Train feathers create special clip-ons that you can use just about anywhere (hair, purse, sweater, lapel, belt, shoes, etc.). The sword feathers, with their graceful arches, offer a perfect backdrop for a pin or brooch. Accent with glue-on rhinestones and they are sure to catch someone’s eye. Pendant necklaces are easy and have great visual impact with virtually any color top. You can put a green and blue feather back-to-back, and voila’ - one pendant to accessorize two different colors. I used to make pea-feather jewelry for a friend who owned an art gallery. Each piece was boxed with a photo of the bird on the inside of the box lid, along with the bird’s name. Because my birds are pets, this special touch impressed the gallery clients and they paid $75 for each pair of earrings or a brooch. (I thought that was a little high, but they sold well so you can’t argue with success.)

The peacock theme has been popular at Christmas for the past few years. I went to a holiday lunch with neighbors last year and the restaurant (operated by a chef school) had a tree that was exquisitely decorated with all sorts of peacock items - small plastic India Blue birds, train feathers glued into the garland, train feathers dropping from strings studded with colored crystals. It was a beautiful surprise.

Several UPA members make attractive Christmas wreaths using the eye feathers. You can buy a plain wreath, either feather or greenery, and add the feathers of your choice. Add some small glass ornaments or ribbons and beads. The wreaths can also be made for other seasonal celebrations. A local import store had styrofoam tree ornaments layered with feathers. The ornaments were so seamless and well-done that you had to look very closely to realize that the ball was covered with neck feathers.

Here’s an easy, appealing home decoration: purchase a styrofoam cone from a craft store and layer it with train or neck feathers (from the bottom up) to make a beautiful feather tree. You can top the tree with a small gold star, and if you have any crest feathers, you can glue them to the back of the star to create a spray or halo effect. Your feather tree could be white, green or blue. You could add smaller neck feathers of a contrasting color and make them look like ornaments. The possibilities are endless and enchanting.

Headbands are popular again. Two eye feathers can be glued to the end of a strip of leather or hemp twine, and attached to the side of a stretchy headband. If you string a small bead above the feather, it will add a little weight and a complimentary color. Plastic headbands have been embellished with a jewel on the side, with an eye feather standing behind it. Or, you can trim the feathers and run a row of them across the headband for lots of color. You can craft them as bold or subtle as you wish. You can cut a “V” at the end of the feather or trim them in unusual ways to make people look twice at the decoration. What a beautiful way to share the peacock’s beauty.

Dress up your favorite cowboy hat with a feather hat band. Add a few of the earth-toned feathers to the band. It doesn’t need to be showy or flashy, and the right feathers will look professional and sophisticated. I can’t think of a good way to use feathers on a ball cap, but it might be good for a laugh.

Here in Kentucky, we’re all about show-stopping hats for the Kentucky Derby. At the beginning of each April, a few artists and milliners usually call to purchase feathers for their clients’ custom-made hats. During the first Saturday in May, it’s a thrill to see some of these clients on the national sports coverage, wearing beautiful hats that have been embellished with peacock feathers. Our birds are very proud of their participation in the Kentucky Derby.

Hair combs are also popular accessories. These can be crafted as very large or very small pieces. If you find a comb you like but it just needs a little tailoring, glue in a feather or two. It’s also easy to insert the comb in your hair and tuck a couple of feathers behind it for a temporary flair. I’ve seen these hair accessories made as large as your open hand, or as small as a couple of eye feathers dangling from a dainty braided rope. They are always versatile and eye-catching.

While shopping at a boutique last year, I noticed that they had lots of handmade items with India Blue feather colors. The store had ceramics, pottery, jewelry and handbags, among other items. During a conversation with the shop owner, who was also the primary artist for the store, she confessed that peacocks inspire her. Many artists have a muse, and this is hers. It delighted me to take a large bouquet of feathers to her on my next visit, and she was equally pleased to receive them.

Years ago, when my husband and I had time to go fly-fishing, I tied flies. Most of the supply stores had lots of feathers and hackles to choose from, including peacock hurl. These are the long, iridescent strands below the eye of the feather. If you want to craft a mean dragonfly or nymph, this would be your choice. The hurl is long, pliable, sturdy and easy to work with, and fish just want to eat it. Plan on having a fish dinner after your outing.

We have a few buckets of train feathers in Jack’s shop. New visitors are always thrilled and nearly speechless to see our peafowl strolling in their aviaries. When the guests leave, they are invited to take home a fistful of the feathers. A few feathers will doll up any floral arrangement and delight the kids. (Cats love them too, but I caution everyone not to use them as cat toys.)

There’s an old tale that peacock feathers bring good luck. If that’s the case, we should all be luckier than most people, right? I’ve heard that brides sometimes tuck a feather or two in their bouquets for good fortune. I know of one bridal party where the bridesmaids wore black dresses with a small swatch of peacock blue, and the bride tucked several Blue feathers into her bouquet. You could choose feathers to blend into the bouquet, or select a few to add the complimentary color of your choice.

Breeders who sell their birds at farm swaps and auctions often go to autumn sales after the males have shed their trains. Because new pea-keepers want to know what the bird will look like with a train, many breeders take a bucket of molted trains to show buyers what the boys’ colors will be next year. I’ve seen this tactic make sales, so maybe I’m not the only one who is enchanted by feathers.

With the many uses for these gorgeous feathers, can you see why I get cold shivers to know that many people just rake them up and throw them away? Sharing their beauty is a great way to promote owning these captivating creatures.

If you have photos of your uses for feathers, please submit those photos to Tracey Whitaker for possible publication in Peafowl Today magazine!

Be the change you want to see in the world.
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