myths & feathers

10 Mar

WEEK THREE – (january 19-22)

I sort through my info on myths, legends and symbolism.
Leda, shape shifters, the ugly duckling, and figureheads all contain leads for the future. 
For now though, I need to get something happening in my hands as my brain is full.

Thinking time has me ready to start making feathers…a rather basic choice but essential choice. I need to get to know these little miracles of flight, warmth and waterproofing.
I have explored them in scientific detail, I’ve soaked up their form, I have caressed them up and down and also lightly pulled at those amazing barbules. Unfortunately I have no swan feathers but have been recently accumulating feathers that lie in my path.

So how to translate these miracles?
Fabric is my natural start…black fabric is obvious even though black swans have white flight feathers and their black is not jet. I start playing with black fabrics, in particular a favourite of mine a hemp silk satin – drawing on it in white to give detail.

white marks on black


I can also work from the other direction building up black from white fabrics.

blog posts-3.3


Feathers need a quill and shaft. The quill is only seen in individual discarded feathers but to me it is this detail that makes them little sculptures in their own right – they need to be treated as complete items. I lean towards a hard substance – porcelain –  but rolled and fused silk organza is also a possibility.

Meanwhile I’m trying to find lengths and proportions of the various types of feathers that a swan has – I want to start with veracity that will allow me to loosen the design as needed.
It is difficult to find any measurements but I work as best I can – making deductions from the common wing span which is generally said to be 2m x 1m. I plot this on paper pinned on the board.

wing span


Using black cotton I trial a few ways of creating fabric feathers that would work on a wall piece, or on sculpture, or on quilts. They look boring, and I am not satisfied, but it is a start – their life will come from choices I make later.

My pinterest page, Swan Study, grows daily. There are also plenty of side shoots to my exploration – other themes that fascinate me and may eventually be linked….collars, maps and armour for a start. 
I now have to search through my bookshelves for mapping books and my boxes of old maps whose beautiful markings fascinate me.

Jan Mullen

B. Ed. Art/Craft (Textiles/Sculpture) Living in Perth, Western Australia Artist, Fabric Designer, Author, Teacher, Mentor.