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Once upon a time, the Feather Forge was just my sporadically updated project blog, where I wrote about whatever craft project I was working on.

And then one year, I wanted to make myself a pair of feathered "ears," for a costume, and I sat down and worked out how to make a pair of ear cuffs that I could cover with feathers, and suddenly a whole world of ear cuff possibilities opened up.

Completed feather ear

I made myself a pair of ear cuffs for a theme party - and then I realized I wanted a necklace to match the ear cuffs. Which opened up another area of exploration!

Variation with bead

And people kept complimenting my work, and asking me if I sold it. So . . .

Eventually, I decided they weren't just humoring me. And I opened an Etsy store. Entered a contest. Put some of it in local art shows (Arisia and Somerville Open Studios, 2011). Started doing some craft fairs. Filed paperwork with my city and state to be an actual real business.

Today, the Feather Forge is also a poorly stocked Etsy store (how I hate the photography process!) where I sell some of my jewelry.

Earring samples

I make my pieces primarily with brass and stainless steel wire, and add glass, semi-precious stone beads, and found objects as required. Sometimes the wire forms the primary design, with the beads and things as accents, and sometimes I create a composition of the beads, and then figure out how to shape the necklace to support it.

Trio of necklaces

Under the name Feather Forge Prints, I also sell a few digital designs I've felt compelled to create over the past year.

The Cake and Robots designs are just for fun - what else could cake and robots be FOR? Other than world domination; that goes without saying.

Cake and Robots: Party!

The Anti-Surveillance Eagle is a design I am particularly proud of, and I am donating half of what I receive from sales of this design to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to support the fantastic work they are doing to ensure our civil rights during the digital age.

Anti-Surveillance Eagle - Solid style

You can read more here, and find a link to a download if you'd like to use the art for something yourself - propaganda posters, stickers, whatever. On Printfection, I have designs on shirts and mugs; if you want robots or eagles on cards, check out my Zazzle store.

I have minimal formal training in art or graphic design - I picked up those skills as a side-effect of getting a degree in architecture. Since finishing school, I've been temping, in completely unrelated businesses, because the market for inexperienced architectural interns is really lousy. Architecture has been hit very, very hard by the recession; at one point I believe I heard that 30% of my potential colleagues have been laid off since September 2008.

I've been keeping going with the jewelry and the digital art primarily because I desperately need a creative outlet to maintain my mental health. But I can only wear so many pieces of jewelry, and to be honest, some of the designs I like to make are not the style of thing I wear. Selling them is a great way to keep making things without building up an ever-growing pile. It's also entirely possible that I have a bead addiction, and this is all an excuse to feed the addiction. And sometimes I feel I have no choice but to do these things; all of the digital art I made because the concepts would not leave me alone until I made them real.

I would love to make enough money off of these side projects to quit my temp job, or to at least cut my hours down significantly. Before that happens, I really have to get over my hatred of photographing things so I can stock Etsy better.

My long-term goals are to maintain an important creative outlet for myself, support my bead addiction (because if I sell jewelry, then I can buy more beads. pretty pretty shiny stone beads), and provide at least some supplemental income so that I have more freedom in terms of employment. If it turns into a full time gig, that could be pretty excellent, though I'd still rather be designing buildings.

I would also love it if the anti-surveillance eagle got wider use, whether or not I make any money from it, because dammit, privacy IS an American value, and I am tired of the pro-surveillance security theater people getting all the credit for patriotism under the guise of "national security."

Originally posted to JFeathersmith on Fri Nov 25, 2011 at 05:32 PM PST.

Also republished by Kos Katalogue.

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