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  • Writer's pictureJessica Bartlett

100 feathers project

I needed a way to continue to work through an artistic block, to generate something familiar and hopefully move myself forward. I have heard of 100 day projects and even tried starting them in the past. I liked the format of the idea but have always struggled with the timeframe. Having to commit to the routine of completing something everyday notoriously had me behind and failing before I had really started. This was not the mindset I needed, I needed a more inclusive and gentle approach. What enticed me about 100 day projects was the reputation and the volume as well as working within a defined perimeter; the satisfaction that comes from a full sketchbook or a pile of papers. So I took this as my jumping off point. To create the 100 without the days. To allow creativity to meet me half way. The goal was set- to engrave 100 feathers on to glass- however long it might take me. Turns out it took me the best part of 7 months but the satisfaction at having completed it remains the same.

Repetition as a meditation

I chose the image of a feather to engrave as this is an already familiar motif. I like the way it inspires a sense of wonder, or quietly addresses grief and sadness. By repeating myself the familiarity became a meditation, I was able to draw without thought and felt humbled by the ease of the activity. Each feather is unique, the shape of the glass offcuts and perhaps my mood on the day lead the way to the shape and design on the feathers, each one finding their own way on to the glass. On days when I struggled with motivation to get started I could always do a feather, this quite often was enough to bring me to my studio. It became an anchor point to my working week because of the returning, because of the repetition. Each one started the same way with the line of the spine, curved or straight; short or long. A bit like a musician might practice scales to warm up themselves and instrument. A feather with it's soft structure became my warm up. With this project I realised more about my own creative process. Sometimes I hold it to ransom expecting greatness each time I sit down to work. These feathers taught me playfulness which in turn allowed my to see my creativity for what it is; a practice. Looking at them now, I can't even remember working on some of them and perhaps that's because they say more about the act of drawing as a meditation than a document.

Now I have 100

I started this project with the goal in mind, a quantity of 100. I presumed I would gain clarity as to what to do with them as I engraved them and the collection grew. This didn't happen. I am left with a pile of glass feathers and a sense of achievement. For now I feel this is enough, enough to have made them in their entirety. In the future I want them to be seen on mass as the full collection rather than sold off as individuals. Trying to imagine different ways of displaying them I have considered a wing shaped sculpture. I think this could look fantastic and might form the basis of a different project and would probably work better with the shape of the wing being sculpted first. Another idea was a hanging installation. This would keep each feather separate as individual pieces but also allow them to be seen as a collection but feel that this presentation might leave the fragmented and not seen as a whole. Finally I have thought about joining them together to create a panel. I am most intrigued by the panel idea, Again it feels like I would be respecting the individual feathers whilst bringing them together to form the whole. I like the idea of the constraints of the frame as a way of completing the piece. I will need to lay them out like a patchwork quilt as each piece of glass is a different size and colour, I will more than likely need to fill the gaps with other off cuts so it will be a fiddley exercise in retro fitting the feathers into a panel. I like the visual link to quilting and the storytelling element that is implied with piece work in particular. The fact that feathers can be a cosy part of a quilt is also a wonderful connection I think this is the journey the feathers will go on next.

My daughter thinks I should keep going and stretch the goal to 1000, this is one way to not have to face up to the lack of conclusion for this project. What I am beginning to realise was the act of making and creating was the project and anything that comes after is almost a secondary project and separate in identity to the first. The Glass Quilt Project will be coming next. To stay up to date with all the goings on in my studio please sign up to my mailing list.

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