Feathers but not fluff

Olympia artist crafts vignettes using a bird’s actual plumage, explores the wonders of life

Contributing writerJanuary 18, 2013 

Chris Maynard sees the world in a single feather.

The Olympia artist creates intricate shadowboxes from whole and cut feathers, and while he has loved feathers since childhood, his deeper interest is much broader.

“Feathers are a symbol of the wonder of life,” he said. “I could have chosen anything: I could have chosen to focus on the human body or horses or sunsets.

“It’s life that I like.”

“He’s speaking in symbols,” said Carolyne Hart, who owns Olympia Framemakers and has been a fan since she saw Maynard’s shadowboxes the first time he showed them, at the fall Arts Walk in 2011. “He uses the feathers to tell stories and share ideas about what’s really important.”

Maynard, who has a show opening Monday at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, has been working with feathers for the past year and a half, and he already has gotten international attention.

He sent photos of his work to designboom.com and inhabitat.com, and both online design magazines featured him.

“I started getting calls from Australia and Turkey and Europe and China and Japan,” he said in a recent interview at Batdorf & Bronson Coffeehouse, which showed his work last month. “I haven’t sold overseas yet, because I haven’t figured that out.”

(One complication is that there are laws restricting the use and ownership of feathers. Maynard has become an expert on U.S. laws and gets all of his feathers legally, mostly from private aviaries and zoos.)

In December, someone posted photos of his work on Reddit, and he ended up on the front page — a status earned through the votes of site users.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” Maynard said, “and then the server where I had my website hosted crashed because there were so many hits.”

That in turn led to attention from the Huffington Post.

Maynard feels lucky to have gotten so much attention for his work, but he’s most excited about the responses of individuals to his painstakingly constructed vignettes, featuring tiny birds — and sometimes entire flocks — cut from feathers with a surgical scalpel.

“Most everybody can relate to feathers,” said the artist, who has a degree in biology from The Evergreen State College and works part time for the Department of Ecology. “I want people to look at feathers in ways that they never have before.

“I want to make people happy,” he added.

And he has. “I’ve had people almost in tears or in tears,” he said.

He recalled an email he got around the time of the school shooting Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn., when most of the news seemed to be bad news.

“This woman said it made her year,” he said. “It reminded her of the beauty of life rather than everything else.”

The feather art of Chris Maynard

What: Chris Maynard of Olympia, whose work is attracting international attention, will show his feather shadowboxes in his hometown.

When: Exhibit runs Monday-Feb. 15; reception with talk by Maynard and Thor Hanson, a biologist and the author of “Feathers,” from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Feb. 2.

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

Tickets: Free

Exhibit hours: Open only to event ticket holders one hour before scheduled events. For an appointment to see the art, call 360-753-8586.

More information: featherfolio.com

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