I carve feathers into intricate art by cutting them into detailed shapes and arranging the cutouts into scenes that celebrate the life and flight of birds and the meaning that birds and flight have for us.
Feathers appear fragile but they are actually made of keratin—the same material that forms our fingernails. They need to be tough, considering the work they do: Feathers keep a bird clothed, sheltered, and in flight for a full year before they are shed.
Once a feather has finished its life as part of a bird, I believe it still has much to offer. The essence of a bird is inherent in each of its feathers. In carving and arranging a feather into a thought-provoking scene, I use an individual feather’s unique qualities in order to celebrate the bird that gave us the feather.
I consider a feather’s patterns, shapes, and sometimes its colors when I’m creating a new work of art. The subjects of my work are drawn from my own experiences as a naturalist and artist, observing and thinking about wildlife.
Developing this new art form was the path to combine the scientific knowledge of birds that I gained during my career with my lifelong fascination with and love for the natural world.
Conservation is inherent in my life as well as my art, so I use only feathers that are legal to have and to sell. I do not alter feather colors in any way. Because of this, my color palette is limited, which challenges me as an artist to allow a feather’s form to guide my work.
I mount the feather cutouts using stainless entomology pins so their curves and shapes are set in relief against the backdrop. This allows me to incorporate shadows—which change depending on the intensity, quality, and direction of light.
My art has been received with appreciation and enthusiasm by many people from many walks of life. I’m honored to be able to help foster appreciation and understanding of the natural world through something as simple and wonderful as feathers. – Chris Maynard, Artist Statement, 2021