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Featured Feather Artist, Nellie Saunier

Nelly Saunier creates wonders as a plumassier in Paris. A plumassier is a person who deals or works with feathers.  Her creativity shows brightly in her feather art, art installations, collaborations, fashion, jewelry, and what caught my attention first, her recent micro-feather work on the faces of watches. It is worth spending some time clicking around her website.

I am always interested in other artists who work with feathers and have several other artists in mind to feature in this blog later this year.

Nelly Saunier watches 1

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Abundance

Quail Stretch

Chris Maynard . Stretch . 22″x22″ . crowned crane wing feathers . 2016

As  my garden grows with more abundance than I can use, so does my creativity. Apples on the ground, baseball bat-sized zucchini thrown into the compost; more lettuce, beets, figs, kale, chard, and tomatoes than I make time to harvest and use.

Producing creative ideas for new pieces is like that for me. I feel blessed with abundance and yet I am able to gather only portion of the opportunities, making them into art. Is it a waste perhaps like the garden produce? Or, like the unused fruit and vegetables that go back into the soil to nourish next year’s plants, do unused creative ideas somehow nourish future creativity?

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A 10 minute talk about feathers and art

Gerald Peters Video 2016
People came to listen to this informal 10 minute talk I gave at the Gerald Peters Gallery in late July in Santa Fe. It is sort of a condensed version of my longer talks.

https://vimeo.com/173829488

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A Possible Explanation for the Sudden Appearance of Swallows


In the stop motion video, you can see the progression of placement and cuts. For me, what really stands out is how the feathers and the cutout birds pop out at the end when they are elevated. The shadows give the work an added dimension.

A big piece like this usually comes after making several smaller pieces where the design concepts are tested. It took a while to collect enough of the right feathers—these are all from the right side of the wing of molluccan cockatoos. Some were shed from a pet bird over several years and some shed in a nonprofit rehabilitation sanctuary for parrots.

I often show a playful element in my work. Playfulness  allows me to learn new things and skills without being too tense, like the second brood of swallows today that were just off the nest learning to fly. I watched these young ones playing with a feather, catching it in their beaks, dropping it, and picking it up again and again. I bet they were enjoying improving their flying and bug catching skills.

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Lucky Icon?

holey feather driving icon

I don’t care if its rainy weather just as long as I have my holey feather riding on the dashboard of my car. ♪♪

This all seeing cyclops feather just travelled from Washington State to New Mexico and back. Having it with me reminded me of how I have chosen to see the world, through my focus on feathers. Perhaps it also brought luck as the Santa Fe show was a success and I am invited back next year. Now I am told that having a rearview mirror adornment is illegal if it blocks the driver’s view of the road.

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Lucky Icon?

holey feather driving icon
♪ I don’t care if its rainy weather just as long as I have my holey feather riding on the dashboard of my car. ♪

This all seeing cyclops feather just travelled with me from Washington State to New Mexico and back. Having it reminded me of how I have chosen to see the world, through a focus on feathers. Perhaps it also brought me luck as the Santa Fe show was a success and I am invited back next year.

Now I am told that having a rearview mirror adornment is illegal if it blocks the driver’s view of the road.

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Art Production vs Creativity

Harken

Harken 11 x 11 inches

Part of what makes making art rewarding is exploring new creative ideas. But people see the art I have already made and often want something like it, the original having already been sold.

This can create a quandary for the artist because if we fall completely into producing similar pieces to satisfy demand, we lose our time to create new works. So we strive to find a balance between producing a lot of similar work with producing only completely new creative original work.

Fortunately for me, I enjoy the process of making each piece and therefore am satisfied making a few originals based on previous designs, like “Harken”. However, exploring new creative territory remains extremely important so at least a day or two a week, if not more, I work on completely new design ideas.

Morning Crow 2 hardWEBwm

Morning Crow 11 x 11 inches

If you find yourself in Santa Fe before July 23, stop in at the Gerald Peters Gallery to see my show. You will see “Harken” in person. It is sold but I am sending the gallery several more pieces about the same size based on this design. Here is one:

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Shed skin and feathers

Dragon Snake hardWEBwmI sometimes work with snakeskin in my art as well as feathers. What is the relation of these outer coverings: human skin, snake skin, and feathers?

Unlike birds that sheds its feathers about once a year, or a snake that sheds its outer skin about three times a year, we shed our outer skin constantly. About .2 pounds a week. Our shed skin doesn’t look like our outer wrappings like shed snake skins do nor does it appear as beautifully complex structures like feathers. Our shed skin doesn’t end up in art. It gathers as dust in our houses.

What if instead of shedding constantly, we shed our outer layer intact like a snake? Would we have molting days built into our work schedule as days off? Would we keep our sheds as souvenirs like locks of hair? Would we use our skin in art?

I may make a piece using feathers, snake skin, and a background of dead human skin cells gathered as dust. I could mix the dust with a light water based glue like clear acrylic and paint it on paper as a background. But although I find shed snakeskin fascinating, I am slightly revolted seeing human dust when I wipe my finger across the top of a picture frame or look under the couch.

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Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe: Solo

Gera_ld Peters 2016 WEBI am most grateful to the Gerald Peters Gallery and to Maria Hajic who has been supporting me in my art at this Santa Fe gallery for several years. She is working hard on an upcoming show featuring my work. I will be driving there for the opening reception July 24th  and an artist talk on the 25th. If you are able to come, mention that you read about the show on my blog and I will give you a shiny feather from the national bird of Nepal.

 

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Feathered Nests

Barn Swallow flying with feather

copyright 2010 Chris Maynard

The 15 pairs of swallows that nest in my barn line their nest with feathers. I place curled, goose body feathers in an open space in front of my studio for them to swoop in and pick up off the ground. They especially like the large ones that are the width of the inside of their nests.

Besides the fun of watching swallows carry off these feathers which are sometimes longer than themselves, I feel like I am doing a good deed because these birds’ feathered nests are twice as successful at nests not lined with feathers.

That’s because the newborn birds have naked skin like us. Would you rather lie in a bed of grass or mud or a bed of feathers? It makes sense that feathering a nest helps eggs hatch by keeping the birds warm. The feathers also reduce parasites in the nest. I’m not sure exactly how.

I enjoyed reading through some of the studies but usually just skim and read the abstracts. Mostly people don’t find earth-shattering discoveries, but there are interesting little bits of knowledge that are gleaned from each study.

http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/winkler/Publication%20Copies/1993%20W%20Auk%20use%20feathers.pdf
http://www.eaglehill.us/NENAonline/articles/NENA-22-3/15-Heinrich.shtml
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4752222/
http://iis1.eeza.csic.es/eeza/documentos/golondrinas%20juanma%20DOI.pdf
https://books.google.com/books?id=jzhKCgAAQBAJ&pg=PT116&lpg=PT116&dq=%22lining+nests+with+feathers%22+study&source=bl&ots=OO_10n3bJL&sig=zm-ZIcpE4bakIxsvG5P1cGEnYXs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjq1Lbe9sLMAhUX0GMKHUmcAmIQ6AEIJzAB#v=onepage&q=%22lining%20nests%20with%20feathers%22%20study&f=false
http://www.science.gov/topicpages/d/duck+feather+keratin.html

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