Turkey Feather Mobile: Material Meditations
During turkey season, Parker brought in some absolute beauties. They run rampant here in Winters, and local landowners are grateful for hunters taking advantage of their tags, as the turkeys eat lizards and snakes that manage mice and rats, which take a toll on crops. In this sense, we're a small part of an old and complicated network. In a perfect world, everyone could hunt or raise their own meat (or buy it from a local shepherd you know and trust), and factory farms would be shut down for good. Unfortunately, this simply isn't possible for most folks. The skills, tools, and money needed aren't available. Many Americans are worried about paying rent for cramped apartments, much less leasing land to farm or ranch on. So what's a meat eater to do?
Personally, we try to buy local, humanely raised food whenever possible. The lingo surrounding healthy and humane food is always changing (Did you know cage-free is relatively meaningless? "Pastured" eggs are now the way to go!), and it's hard to keep up. But keep up we must. And yes, responsible meat is more expensive, but if that means eating less meat, that's okay. It's a sacrifice we're willing to make. Still, hunting is hard on a softie like me. The animals are so beautiful, so lively and warm. Caring for them after death becomes an important gesture to thank them for their lives. Of course, we process all the meat we can, use the bones for broth, and keep the wings and feathers for art. I've preserved wings in cornmeal, or plucked the feathers individually to preserve and process for crafts.
Projects like these are a coming-to-terms with loving animals and eating animals. Every feather washed, tied, and hung is a silent "thank you." Here's my process:
Pluck the feathers as soon as possible, then wash gently. I put them in the tub and used a gentle dish soap.
Smooth out the feathers and lay them out to dry. Once they're dry, you can leave them in cornmeal for a few days to draw out any lingering moisture.
If you're worried about mites, stick them in the freezer for a few days.
The feathers are ready to go. I was debating between making a wreath and a mobile, and decided on the latter. This way, I can add more material (stones, leaves, moss, etc.) if I want to.
For my mobile, I gathered some pliable branches from around the house. Evergreen boughs stripped of needles, and some "waterspouts" from fruit trees. You could easily use an embroidery hoop or tie straight branches into a triangle or square, or hang feathers from antlers or one long branch.
I wove my branches into a hoop, tied them together with some embroidery string, and added hot glue in places that needed extra fortification.
I used embroidery thread to attach the feathers to the hoop, but you could use fishing line, twine, or anything else you have on hand. I picked light, neutral colors as I want the emphasis to be on the feathers.
Finally, I tied the threads around the wreath, gradually lengthening them to create a spiral effect. No need to make the string lengths exact, as the feathers are varied in size and "side" (left and right wings) anyways. And anyways, messy is always my preferred style.
I love the way this turned out, but it's not about what the mobile ends up looking like. My crafts rarely turn out how I think they will, and that's where the magic creeps in. This project is a physical act of appreciation, a meditation on gratefulness, working from the fingertips.