11 Jul Transitioning from Erin Lightfeather to Erin Summer Creative Design
Hello, welcome to my new blog!
Several clients, friends and social media acquaintances have been asking me what the status of my feather art business is, so I decided to dedicate a post to it.
My love affair with feathers started in my early 20’s when I took a course in Millinery design at George Brown College in Toronto. I learned to make hats and hair accessories for my little indie label called Coco Boudoir. After several years of designing bridal headpieces, I became fixated on the one material that I loved working with most: feathers.
I spent a lot of time collecting old millinery feathers from antique shops and Etsy, and studying pictures of beautiful hats and clothing adorned with plumage- particularly from the late 1800’s-1920’s. I learned about couture houses that specialized specifically in feathers, and the artisans who worked with them called Plumassiers. How whimsical and beautiful I thought. How utterly captivating.
Like most industries that uses animal products, I also learned how cruel and unethical feathers harvesting can be. My obsession with feather art took a dark turn when I discovered and forced myself to watch videos of feather farms where birds; particularly geese, are plucked alive and forced to suffer. It was at that moment I had to make a choice: give up feathers, or find a way to source them ethically.
I did a lot of research on the Internet and I was able to find some small free-range waterfowl and peafowl farms in North America who could provide me with cruelty-free naturally shed feathers for my art. Over time I was working with almost a dozen bird farmers and keepers, mostly geese (which is my very favourite feather to work with.)
The batches weren’t always consistent and they certainly weren’t as inexpensive as feathers from craft stores. However, it was well worth it to me personally knowing I could continue working with beautiful plumage without the guilt of putting another living creature through any pain and suffering.
I taught myself how to clean, bleach, treat, paint, dye, print, gild, crystallize and shape feathers. I created unusual and interesting art and jewelry. I loved every minute of it, and I was proud of my unusually niche art form.
Unfortunately in 2016 things began to change for me. It became uncomfortable, and then progressively painful to spend so much time doing detailed feather work. I was eventually diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and despite the medication I now take, I just couldn’t sit and hand-sew and be hunched over a table doing the detailed work anymore. It was really hard, but I had to make the hard decision to let it go.
Being creative is my passion and pride. Losing my ability to work with feathers was devastating. I gave it one last ditch effort when I started making dreamcatchers that I could assemble while standing. Unfortunately a friend of mine who also made dreamcatchers felt I was stepping on her toes, and kindly asked that I stop pursuing them. I knew then that I was truly done.
I had a few dark months afterwards where I really felt lost. What was I if I wasn’t “that crazy feather lady?” What do I do next? Feathers were my full time job for nearly 4 years. I didn’t know where to go as a now 30-something artist who hadn’t worked a 9-5 in a decade. I felt really angry that I had discovered something I was truly good at, only to be forced to give it up.
Unbeknownst to me, I already had my new passion waiting for me on my computer. I had been using Photoshop at that point for several years to edit my feather photos, and I really loved using the program and discovering new tools when I had the time. Now that I seemed to have nothing BUT time, I figured I owed it to myself to focus on Photography and Graphic Design, and really get to know my Adobe software better.
I couldn’t justify going back to school yet again for a skill I didn’t use, so I started to watch YouTube tutorials. I made a list of all the things I wanted to learn. I taught myself step by step, and I became better acquainted with the software.
I’ve spent the last 12 months really teaching and challenging myself to learn new skills, and to push my photography and graphic design to the next level whenever possible. I’ve been inspired by so many of my creative friends who have launched businesses for themselves producing mind-blowing visuals. I couldn’t believe that some people actually get to make creative visual content for a living. I wanted the same thing for myself if given the opportunity.
Today I am launching my website www.erinsummer.com. I’ve owned this domain for almost 10 years. I’ve made half-hearted attempts to launch it at several points over the decade, but I didn’t really know what it was I was doing. Now I do.
For this new chapter of my creative career, my mission is to create unique, colourful, high-impact visuals for brands that share the same lighthearted and quirky aesthetic that I do. I want to spread happiness and joy, I want to continue to communicate through colour and creativity. I want to inspire and be inspired by the creative community I still surround myself with.
Welcome to erinsummer.com. I hope you’ll come back to visit, my inbox is always open ❤️ Erin