Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Feather Touch

This one is geared a bit more toward the ladies... or, if you're a fella who happens to enjoy sporting a feather or three in your hair, well then... go for it I guess, dude.  I'm not judging.  I'm probably going to alienate a female reader or seven here in a bit, spewing stereotypes and generalizations as I go.  I don't need to lose anyone else in the first paragraph.

There are some universal truths in life -- what goes up must come down and the sun sets in the west.  A flush beats a straight and the Bears still suck (put more generically: the sports team from my geographical area is superior to the sports team from your geographical area, always and in every way).  We hold these things to be true everywhere we go.

If you're a tyer of colorful and flashy warmwater flies, another thing will occasionally happen to you that is as consistent as the seasons.  You can see it coming almost every time.  Open your boxes in front of a non-fishing woman or group of women.  Almost without fail one of them will, in that particular timbre and frequency that is somehow simultaneously jarring and oh, so satisfying to the male ear, oooh and aaah and say, "These would make cool jewelry.  You should make me some earrings!"  

I'm not a social scientist, and I only have the anecdotal evidence that is my life, but apparently, when a member of the fairer sex encounters something small and colorful and sparkly, most of them can't help but lose their mind for a few seconds.  It wouldn't be a stereotype if ... yeah, you get it.  All emails regarding my perceived anti-feminist generalizations will be ignored in the order they are received.

The trout guys are notoriously out of luck here, by the way.  Nobody other than the angler and trout gets excited over a box full of little brown creepy-crawlies, and few outside the fish has ever thought of a dobsonfly nymph as sexy or delicious.  Google one up if you don't believe me.

No, it's us warmwater and big, bitey-fish chasers who tie the flash and sparkle that looks like it might be jewelry to some uninitiated female friends.  The modern equivalent of that unboxing in front of the girls is, of course, the sharing of our pics on social media.  Maybe I'm way off base in all this, or maybe I just tie really girly flies somehow, but if you looked at an archive of my Twitter, Instagram, and (fledgling, admittedly) Facebook tying pics, you'd find quite few requests for jewelry in the comments and replies.

I believe this was the most recent winner in the eliciting jewelry hints game

It was inevitable then, really.  A while back, Randi asked me if I'd like to have a bunch of peacock feathers.  I really would, as it turns out.  That much herl will go a long way, staring a long winter of tying in the face.

I first brought up the subject of peacock jewelry being fashioned in trade for the feathers.  It doesn't really matter who broached the subject, I was almost certain she'd be flatly thrilled at the prospect.  Decades of occasionally opening fly boxes in front of females had already taught me that to be true.  Aside from that, I'm always down for the challenge of trying to make something beautiful.

The irony of putting together feather jewelry as a fly tyer is not lost on me.  Beginning in 2010, I believe, the whimsy of the behemoth fashion industry turned to feather hair extensions, and pretty much kicked the average tyer right square in the teeth.  One article I read said that a buyer for a home shopping channel called a grower asking for a weekend run of 15,000 saddles, more than twice what the grower produced in a year.  Such was the demand for rooster saddles.

Once the craze hit there were simply no grizzly feathers for most of us, and when you did find them, they were usually from a hair salon supplier and almost comically, astronomically overpriced.  To this day they are very difficult to find -- many of us often tie with substitutes or choose different patterns altogether -- but at least you no longer get salt rubbed in the wound by seeing women with perfectly beautiful saddle feathers hanging uselessly in their hair every time you leave the house.   

In any case, we committed fly tyers are a resilient bunch, always with an eye out for new and different materials we can use in our tying endeavors.  Fly shops and online fly tying retailers are, of course, our main source of feathers and fur and little shiny baubles to stick on a hook.  But the low hum in the background of our brains that is the sound of seeking new materials thrums a little louder in the art supply store, the hardware store and many other other places.

There are fly patterns out there that start with everything from flip-flops to seat belt webbing.  Me, I tie one fly with "collie dubbing."  The pooch has cool gray underfur on her rump that behaves much like Laser Dub and she was just lying there watching me tie one day when inspiration struck.  It made sense then, and it still catches fish now.  Best of all, she loves a good butt brushing.  (I'm choosing to leave that softball perched right there on the tee.)

The craft store is a treasure trove of fly tying materials.  Craft Fur, some feathers, Prismacolor markers, beads and beading wire, chenille-- that one stringy looking yarn that is basically polar chenille, only in a multitude more colors.   Eyes in particular are everywhere at the craft store, and not just the doll eyes and stick-on googly eyes (but those do rattle nicely).

The eyes above are made from the "stamens" sold to construct artificial flowers.  The bottom two flies below have eyes made from cheap stick-on rhinestones.  Those rhinestones inspired the entire color scheme, as a matter of fact.

So, I'm in the craft store at least once a month, often more than that.  They know me there.  I've always had a fairly easy touch working my few charms on the mothers and aunts (and sometimes sisters) of the world, and the cute little frosty-permed craft store ladies are no different.  

When one of them found me in the jewelry aisle, looking mildly perplexed, she approached to help.  She knows I'm a fly tyer, but when I related that I'd roped myself into making some earrings and such, she patted my arm, and said, "Oh, hon.  We get you fellas in here all the time.  Here's what you need..."

Having a craft store grandma is pretty sweet.  No snickerdoodles yet, but I'm holding out hope.

There was no more putting it off.  I had to sit down and make some jewelry.  It had been a long time since I sat at the bench (vise now pushed over to the side), and had no idea what I was doing.  Often when I'm struggling to jazz up a well-known fly pattern or come up with one of my own, I start with color.  I have no formal art training -- I vaguely know what a color wheel is, but wouldn't know what to do with one, so it mostly entails me rummaging through bags of feathers, holding stuff up together to see what it looks like.

That's exactly what I did here.  I made a glorious mess of things, hauling out every bag of feathers that had cool patterning or that I thought might look good in the color scheme.  I soon found myself adrift in pheasant skins, strung guinea fowl, soft hackle patches, and whatever else I could dig up.  My side of the mountain... of feathers.

I felt a feather overload flop sweat coming on, so I put all but my favorites away, and began to mock up some layouts.  While there were some struggles initially, and almost no sustained or consistent technique throughout, I did eventually manage to meld some stuff to some other stuff roughly approaching a state of bedazzlement. 

Things I learned about making earrings and hair clip... things with peacock feathers:

  • All the little metal posts and rings and stuff you use to make earrings are called "earring findings."  I had no idea.
  • You don't have to baby peacock eyes as much as I'd thought.  They'll generally hold together as long as you don't completely destroy them tying them on.  That said, some Super 77 spray adhesive would be nice next time.
  • I watched a lot of crafty women go through a lot of shenanigans to get their feathers attached to head pins on YouTube.  Somebody needs to introduce them to fly tying bobbins -- multiple times faster and no hot glue oozing everywhere.
  • You can't "reef" on soft earring components with the thread like you can a hook.  Somebody needs to introduce this fly tyer to a little finesse.
  • I own a number of bins of feathers that might be deemed "ridiculous" by some.  Some of the packs of feathers have never been opened, and that makes me feel slightly like a greedy asshat.

Here's what I managed to cobble together in my initial efforts, warts and all.

A little good old fashioned cherry Kool-Aid dying to get the red there.

I'll never claim to be a crafty jewelry maker, and I don't know how they'd rate in the highly competitive world of peacock jewelry making.  Or if that exists.  But I do know another universal truth in the male world...

... on the occasions you manage to craft something that makes a beautiful woman smile as above, it's often best to stop babbling about it on your blog before you say something idiotic and ruin the whole thing.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...