One day I noticed a feather floating gently to the ground, spinning and drifting with the breeze until it landed on the grass. This gave me the idea for a little artists book with feather prints. I wanted to show the feather descending, and capture the moment I spent watching it settle.
The point of the book was to enable a reader to stop and share that moment too. The time taken to ‘read’ the book would be about the same as it took for the feather to fall.
A concertina book
A concertina book structure seemed the best one to choose. This format is great because you can turn the pages like a conventional book, and also open it out to see the whole thing at once. It is easy to display concertina books on a shelf as they stand up on their own when partially opened out.
First find your feathers
Our garden hedge has one particular tree where the pigeons like to roost; a little bit of hunting underneath it produced a collection of different sized feathers.
I was searching for small fluffy ones with a thin spine down the middle.
The secret of beautiful feather prints
Because these downy feathers are so delicate and thin it is almost impossible to roll ink directly onto them. If you have tried this you probably got in a mess and the feather wound up as a soggy little scrap.
Follow these instructions and you will get great results….
Start with 2 smooth sheets of fairly stiff acetate or plastic.
Roll ink onto a glass slab, then roll a thin even layer on to one sheet of acetate.
Carefully lay the feathers onto the inky sheet (hold your breath so you don’t blow them away!)
Put the other acetate on top.
Run the sandwich through the press to squeeze them together.
Peel the two sheets apart to reveal the feathers, which will have picked up a thin even layer of ink on one side.
Use tweezers to lift of the feathers and arrange them inky side up on a clean acetate sheet. (Hold your breath again!)
Place a sheet of dampened printing paper on top of the feathers and run it through the press.
You should end up with a clean and detailed image of even the tiniest fluffiest feathers.
As a bonus, after inking the feathers a few times the acetate sheet will have an impression of feathers on it – this often makes a lovely print as well.
You can also use this mono printing technique with leaves.
Finishing the feather print book
To complete the book I fixed a cover on and gave it a title.
Noticing and collecting things to print
When you go for a walk it is lovely to collect things, and then create a print from them. This direct way of working is a great way to create a reminder of a particular time or place.
Feathers are particularly good to print, and they carry a lot of associations; the idea of gentle, softness as well as birds in flight and a quiet lightness of spirit. I hope you will feel inspired to try some feather prints and incorporate them into your work.