Last week I was on a terrific bird hunt to make the Faux Taxidermy project from Blair Stocker’s Wisecraft.
There were birds to be had on Etsy and Ebay, but I’m impatient sometimes, and the crafting cannot wait. I went to my local Beverly’s, and happily birds were 30% off, which is great because I had big plans to dissect her.
This is an example of the same brand/different bird on Amazon. I might have actually bought and used this finch had it been in stock. Instead, I bought a really weird looking canvas bird, and I am remiss for not photographing it for you. But again, I am sometimes impatient when crafting. The plan for this bird was to make a shadow box, featuring the bird, and a simple calligraphy label. I love when crafty plans go awry.
Concurrently, I was reading and creating from Randel Plowman’s Collage Workbook. I was making 5-minute collages and bird-themed collages and map-based collages. While the collages were drying under a weighty American Heritage Dictionary, I dismantled the bird. I also rummaged around for the sturdiest box to house my faux bird. I have a collection of small, strong, hinge-lidded boxes from my Studio Calico Project Life® subscription*. They are very good quality boxes that arrive monthly, and I knew that I would find a project for them at some point.
Happily, the bird fit into the box! So I continued with my bird re-feathering, and since it had a metal clip instead of feet, I fashioned some legs and feet from a small piece of floral wire which—all of a sudden—magnetically stuck to the top of the box! These strong magnets on either side easily hold a small bird upright.
And while I was delighted to have discovered that a bird could sit on top of the shadow box, I was foiled about what would go IN the box. Another bird? (I had several bird-making books on hold at the library, plus an old issue of Somerset Studios with a bird-maker interview). And all the while, those collages dried flat under the dictionary behind me. You know where this is going.
Back to the bird:
After I had carefully taken all the canvas off the foam core, I laid each piece down and traced out the pattern. Her tail was sort of over the top for her size, so I didn’t build that into her remake. I kept the same beak, eyes, and wing shape, but simplified the tail, and added some vintage feather bits to her wings. I cut new pieces of fabric from a vintage linen remnant, and glued them all back together onto the foam core. I bent two small feet from floral wire, and left them green—she’s already a fabric bird, no need to force the faux issue.
Then I sanded the box. It had a smooth surface, and the paint wouldn’t stick without deglossing; in hindsight, I probably should have primed it too. But, as it was in the middle of dinner preparations, and I was throwing together pasta and sautéing vegetables in the kitchen while painting a second coat on my bird-box in the garage. A juggling act. Forget priming. I used a small tester pot from Benjamin Moore called Deep in Thought. (I have many of these tester pots, and I vow to find other small paint projects to use them up!)
Once the bird and box were fully dried, I set them on my desk, and thought maybe a bird poem would go inside—Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers?” Lyrics from a song— Jolie Holland’s “The Littlest Bird?”
I think this is the point that I pulled out the collages, some of which were portrait in orientation, and wouldn’t fit. But were four horizontal, and fit nicely. And that made for one happy maker. A tilt on Blair Stocker’s lovely bird shadow-box-turned-evolving-display for collages! And that, good people of the internet, is how I got sidetracked from Blair’s project idea, but I don’t think she’ll mind. I still love Blair’s bird boxes, and will likely make a set as soon as I have the right birds.
The box is light-weight, and I plan to affix it to the wall with a piece of Command Strip, though I haven’t decided where to hang it. I think a series is in order.
*Project Life® is a system of memory-keeping designed by Becky Higgins meant to stream-line photos and scrapbooking. Studio Calico is a design company who builds fun papery kits in addition to Becky’s line. I happen to love these monthly small boxes of supplies, and use the contents for all sorts of crafting. I also maintain a Family Book—my own version of Project Life, and perhaps I’ll share my process for that project here.