Pheasant Ornament Feather Crafting Tutorial
I love birds of all sorts. They are all so beautiful, and each feather is unique. While looking through a bag of pheasant feathers, you might initially think there are ten feather variations, only to realize there are twenty or more similar colors/patterns. Even then, each one is its own individual self, just like a snowflake.
After a bird hunt, I clean the birds and prepare them for cooking or freezing. The meals made from these are wonderful, healthy, and delicious! Along with using the meat for food, I don't like wasting any parts of the animals I harvest. so I find ways to use them up. You can use the bones and carcass to create a beautiful stock for soups or stews. You can skin the entire bird and then dry and mount the skin and feathers to display as a cherished memory of your hunt. Or you can pluck the birds and save them for my favorite usage of the feathers: crafting!
Prior to attempting these feather ornaments, I had seen a few photos circulating online, but wasn't able to find any tutorials. So off I went to the craft store and sought out clear glass ornaments and a few different types of glue. I made a handful of horribly disfigured, sticky, disastrous ornaments and another trip to the craft store before I finally figured out my best way of creating these beautiful works of art!
- Clear Glass Ornaments
- Hot Glue
- Hot Glue Gun
- Spray Shellac
- Small Bags or Tupperware
- Acrylic Paint
- Small Sharp Scissors
- Optional - Recentangle Craft Foam and Wood Skewers to create a drying rack
Pheasant Feather Ornaments
You can use many types of feathers for these ornaments: I chose to use both pheasant and chukar. The only limitations I would mention is the larger the feathers, the larger the ornaments you will need. The smaller the feathers, the easier it is to use smaller ornaments because it's time-consuming to put that many on a larger ornament.
Make sure you have your feathers collected and have already preserved them with the method you prefer. I personally freeze them in bags and add a good amount of borax to them. When ready to use, I dust them off by blowing on them and shaking them out (very scientific, I know). I then separate them into small Ziploc bags, Tupperware, or bowls by color, size, and pattern so it is easy to navigate through them.
Painting the Ornament Base Color
I chose clear glass ornaments, as the hot glue would pull away somewhat easily if I needed to pull a feather off that I accidentally put out of place. I chose the brand Fab Lab ornaments in both 75mm and 40mm sizes. The first few feather ornaments I tried were clear in places, making the feathers look sparse, so at this point I decided to color them. By using clear glass, I was also able to choose what color base to start with and customize to the type of feathers I was using.
You can purchase cheap acrylic paints and even mix some if you'd like: for the pheasant ornaments I mixed dark brown, glitter orange, and shimmery red; for the chukar ornaments I did a grey/beige mix. Use a small amount of alcohol to thin the paint in a disposable bowl so they are easily pour-able, but not too runny. Then pour a spoonful of the paint into the smaller ornaments or two plus spoonfuls into the larger ornaments and swirl them around to cover the entire inside of the ornament and let the excess drain out. If it won't spread very easily, you need more alcohol added to your paint. If it pours out like a liquid too quickly, you have too much alcohol and it will not dry. It's fairly easy to find the right consistency once you play around with it.
Once you have poured out the excess, you will want them to continue dripping and drying; I dried about 6 hours in a dry, warm room and they were no longer tacky (check the inner rim for firm paint). One easy way you could set this up would be with a piece of newspaper set over a square of craft foam and then push wooden skewers in to hold each ornament. I just used what I had around the house and happened to find a box and skewers (skewers were held in place with hot glue at the base). This not only worked to dry the paint, but also to dry the finished ornaments.
Preparing the Feathers
You will want to take already preserved feathers and as mentioned above, sort by color/pattern/size that you want to use. You can do an entire ornament with the same type of feathers or alternate rows of feather patterns for the look at the top of this post.
You will need to trim the feathers. The base of the feather, or callamus, is quite bulky and will not allow your feathers to lay flat. They are also often too long to use on ornaments, so you will trim off any fluffy sections at the base, leaving only the prettier patterned section you wish to showcase: the sizes of my cut feathers varied from the size of a dime to the size of a quarter.
Gluing the Feathers
Once your ornaments dry and you have trimmed your feathers, you can begin. Start by grabbing the glass ornament of your choice and find the exact bottom center. You can choose to glue a small feather here or leave blank. I did combinations based on what I thought looked best. If you are leaving blank, you will want to make sure that the first row of feathers you add meet up to cover the bottom the best you can. I tend to use smaller feathers at the bottom and top rows and large feathers for the middle rows.
Glue each feather by placing a small glob of hot glue where the base of your feather will go. Grab feather by the tip and place the base of the feather immediately onto the glue and press down with your finger gently; the feather should be just over the glue so you don't burn yourself. You will want to let dry for a few seconds and then pull off any "glue strings". Move to the next feather placement.
As you place the feathers, you just need to make sure that the tips are meeting up nicely for coverage. You don't have to have the entire surface of the row covered, as your next row will go between to fill any gaps as seen below. My next row up was placed in the gaps of the existing row.
Continue with your rows until you reach the top; you will want to stop just at/under the point the bulb meets the stem. As mentioned, I like to use smaller feathers as I get toward the top as it looks more full and adds more interest for the eye. Once you fill the ornament surface with feathers, it's time to grab that spray shellac and head outside!
Protecting and Sealing
Groom your feathers if necessary; sometimes as you're holding the ornament the feathers separate. Comb them back into place until everything looks proper. Then place the ornament upside down on top of a wooden skewer and use this to spin the ornament in a circle while spraying with shellac. Follow the directions for the shellac carefully, being sure not to over spray as the feathers may stick together poorly.
You can do as many coats of this as you'd like. I typically stick with two or three. It provides a nice sheen to the feathers, helps keep them in place, and will preserve the ornaments much better than simply keeping them natural.
Now I hope this gave you some insight into making your feather ornaments and getting them on that tree! I will be continuing to make these using feathers from both game birds and pet birds, including pheasants, chukar, turkeys, and peacocks. Connect with me to see more of the crafting I do with the "extra" parts from the hunt!
Also, these ornaments don't need to be packed up at the end of the holidays! There are plenty of ways you could work these into your home decor, one of which would be placing them in a decorative bowl alongside some treated pine cones.
Let me know if you decide to tackle this project. I'd love to see images of your creations or different decor ideas!
Also, a thanks to www.instagram.com/badlandsdesigns for lending the friendly conversation and tips on choice of glue!
About the Author:
My name is Rachel Von Fleck, and I am a fairly tall, happy, goofy angler and hunter living in Southern California. I prefer the outdoors above anything else, and I love to hunt, fish, and farm for my own food.
Rachel Von Fleck
ReelCamo Girl Team Member