I’ve always been a treasure hunter – or a scavenger, depending on how you view it! From being very small I would pick up pebbles, feathers, leaves, acorns, sea glass, shells – all sorts of treasures from nature, and I’d proudly display them in my room, a tiny museum dedicated to the joys of keeping your eyes open.
As an adult, a photographer and an artist, I have kept this habit, and alongside the things on display around my home, I have a couple of small boxes of feathers I’ve found on my travels – which were vaguely destined for some unspecified future project.
About a month ago, I popped out to the supermarket and came back in the middle of a murmuration. I stood in the road behind mine and the air shimmered with birds moving – it was a surreal but incredible moment. I wish I’d had more warning and my big camera, but here’s the best shot I got – mostly I just stood and experienced it!
In the last month I’ve witnessed another three murmurations from the ground – and keep thinking about the magpie at my window last year too. Having always been a water person, air is suddenly very present – and I’m wondering why my senses are suddenly so in tune with feathers and flight.
In that time I’ve also been experiencing a complete obsession with hunting for feathers – everywhere I go I see them, and have to stop to collect them . And they have been EVERYWHERE – so many of them, that I’m pretty sure the birds want me to have them. Or something does, anyway – even allowing for not actively looking most of the time, I have been able to pick up 20-50 beautiful intact feathers every time I leave the house, even just on my not very leafy estate!
It’s been very good for my step count, very joyful and surprisingly mindful walking while focused on the ground for a flash of feather texture, but also bit bewildering – I’m not actually yet sure what I’m going to do with them all!
I attempted to clean the first set, which annoyingly contained my first ever jay’s feather. I’ve done it before with warm water and a little bit of antibacterial washing up liquid. But my water was too hot and I used Dettol instead of washing up liquid and it shrank them all – which was funny but sad, because they were a beautiful set!
On the plus side, I found two more jay feathers when I went back out the following day for a walk, so no harm done – and part of art is experimenting and testing and figuring out the limits of your materials, right?
As to what’s coming – I suspect making some kind of wings for a new self portrait project or series, but really am open to all possibilities and have no concrete plans yet. I know August is usually a good time to find feathers as most UK birds moult during the summer, so am hopeful that this next month will bring me all kinds of treasure.
I’m also planning to spend some time with my sketchbook and some books and also probably the internet, looking at their structure and collecting my inspiration and ideas in one place.
And then the feathery magic will unfurl!
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