Two feathers, unworried, drift away

My simple little feathers are on the way to Jude Hill's Magic Feather Project where they will join hundreds of other feathers in some master project created by Jude's insanely imaginative mind.

At Umstead Park, where I hiked with Katherine

So nice to work on such a small project.

Clear & complicated

The tall feather represents a friend. It is long, clear and strong, like he is. But as I was stitching it, I realized that the feather is far more complicated than it looks, just like him. The piles of satin stitch look crisp, but they are densely packed and layered. They have a unpredictable texture, thicker in some places and finer in others. It's as if life has worn it down unevenly since it departed its bird.

Weathered but strong

The second feather, mottled and weathered, represents me. It is less crisp, more bent. It's missing patches, just like I am. But it is lovely in its own, worn way.

The ground fabric is a scrap of a silkscreen by Rebecca Ringquist, a wonderful Brooklyn-based textile artist from whom I was fortunate enough to take two embroidery classes at Squam Art Workshop back in 2010.

Sending these feathers, which I'll never see again, to the Magic Feather Project reminds me of an experience that I had a Machu Picchu many years ago. I was standing alone on the Sun Temple in the unfamiliar Andean light. The wind whistled in my ears. I was sad and worried but I couldn't say why. I wanted to connect to the incredible beauty and strange energy of the place, but I didn't know how.

Sun Temple, Machu Picchu, Peru

As ridiculous as it sounds, I pulled seven strands of hair out of my head and made wishes for seven people in my life, including myself. Wishes for peace and laughter and moments of joy. And I released each strand of hair into the wind. I started to feel self-conscious, ironic and to laugh at my own attempt at a ceremony. But my laughter was overpowered by an unexpected gasp of emotion and, instead, I cried. Not bitter tears. Just tears for my own smallness and aloneness in the vastness of that place and of the world.

Next to Reedy Creek Lake
I did not cry while sending these feathers off. So much has happened since those tears in Peru, so much has been lost. Now it's laughter and joy at being alive.

Why worry?

Two feathers taking a leap

Flitting about in my creativity. Unsure of how to approach the two bigger stitched portrait projects I have in have in mind. So I decided to makes something small but meaningful to me.

Wrapped back stitch along the matching feather spines.

Two feathers for Jude Hill's Magic Feather Project, which she describes as, "a collective stitching project focused on creative sharing and giving."

She is going to collect 1,000 of these stitched feathers and create a larger piece, or pieces, that will be auctioned off for charity.  So far she has collected 445. It is fun to scroll through her Gathering Feathers gallery, featuring the feathers other stitchers have sent it to her. Such a simple image, a feather, but there are so many ways to create one.

I love deep red, yellow-green and blues.

I knew that I wanted to make a feather that represented me. To stitch myself into the fabric and release the piece into the world. 

Detail of the spines

But as I was drawing, I realized that I wanted to make a feather representing a friend of mine who has been going through a difficult time in his life. To imagine good things for him as I stitch his feather into the fabric. And then to send both of our feathers out into the world, to land wherever the wind takes them, and to become a part of a finished collaboration we will most likely never see.

I don't mean any of this in a New-Age sense. The truth is, this language makes me uncomfortable. But sometimes you just have to make that leap beyond your own discomfort -- in friendships, in art, in your life. All of the most beautiful things that I've ever done or experienced have required me to make a jump while holding my breath.

The ground fabric is a silk screen scrap by Rebecca Ringquist.

And even if the language is a little awkward to me, the feeling of letting go feels true... letting go of the feathers, of the past and of your grief.