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When it comes to the craft of recycling, nobody does it quite like Nancy Brown. Instead of plastic bottles, glass jars and aluminum cans, she reuses something much more natural—pheasant feathers that would otherwise be disposed of by hunters.
“It’s such a tragedy,” says Brown when she thinks about something so beautiful being tossed out.Brown’s solution was to take the plumage and make them into something unique, decorative and absolutely beautiful. She began by making Christmas ornaments in 1993, originally as a gift for her son, using feathers from the first pheasant he bagged.
Her ornaments caught the attention of a few friends. Gradually, she began taking her creations to craft shows and festivals. After some encouragement from a friend, by 2006 Brown turned her hobby into Fancy Feathers—a bona fide business.
But she continued to craft for fun, too. In 2007 one of her creations earned her a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair in the Seasonal Decoration category.
But then, “My creative mind got a little bored,” she says. So she started looking beyond pheasant feathers and began working with wild turkey feathers. Originally, she thought wild turkeys were rather ugly birds, but upon further inspection, she found their feathers have a wide variety of patterns, colors and textures. She made a wreath using turkey feathers that earned her second place at the Iowa State Fair.
If you want your own Nancy Brown original, don’t expect to find any of her work at department stores. Though she’s had offers, she refuses to have her work mass-produced. “I want my things to be one-of-a-kind and unique,” she says.
Some pieces incorporate more than just feathers. Brown often uses antlers, spurs, cattails and acorns in her work. “It’s my effort at recycling,” she says.
Create Your Own Feather ArtWhat you’ll need:• Wild game feathers with a variety of colors and textures• A wreath form (straw or floral foam) from craft store• Hot glue gun and glue sticks• Acorns, pinecones or other natural items you’d like to use to decorate your wreath• Pencil
NOTE: Plumage from any legally harvested game can be used for ornamental and decorative uses, but songbird and endangered or threatened species feathers cannot be possessed for any reason or use. While feathers from legally harvested upland game birds can be bought and sold, migratory game bird feathers cannot under the federal Lacey Act.
Begin adding feathers to your wreath by poking them into the wreath form. If you’re having trouble getting the end of the feather into the form, use a pencil to poke a starter hole. When you poke the feather into the form, make sure it is parallel with the wreath and not sticking straight up. Continue to cover the entire wreath with feathers, adding several layers, making sure to overlap so the form doesn’t show through. Add as many feathers as you’d like to get the look you want.
When the wreath is covered, add a bow, or use a hot glue gun to af fix a cluster of acorns, pinecones or cattails as decoration. You can even add a few extra feathers to the cluster to create more detail.
From the September/October 2009 issue of Iowa Outdoors magazine