History, and How to Make Feather Pens / by Chris Maynard

  Plume  . turkey feather and tiny head and cheek feathers from various small parrots . 2013

Plume . turkey feather and tiny head and cheek feathers from various small parrots . 2013

Did you know that the word “pen” is closely related to feathers? Penna is “feather” in latin. Since feathers were used to write, now we have pens and pencils.

Sharon Carter wrote a page about feather pens on the North Carolina Reenactment Society website. The author, in one paragraph, outlines the history of feather pens from the 6th to 18th centuries. Then she covers where to get quills, how to clean and harden them, and how to cut them so they work well. http://www.6nc.org/quill-pens-the-18th-century-way/

We filter much of how we see the world through our language, both spoken and written. Words paint a picture in our minds of, say, a feather or a bird. We may think we know a feather or a bird after reading about it. But the picture in our mind is not the thing itself. We don’t really know a thing only through reading. Nevertheless, we often confuse words with what is real. This piece attempts to portray a feather pen that is writing the word “plume” in feathers. Except when the little feathers form the word, it is upside-down. As the little cutout bird flies, it spews small feathers, also forming the word “plume” but right-side up.