A second grade girl gleefully embellished a simple, plastic box with beads and pretty stones. She presented it as a gift to her elementary school principal, explaining it was the box that held Snow White’s heart. This was to be a mere glimpse into the imagination and creativity that lives in the extraordinary talent of Elaine Maisel.
From childhood to college, Elaine devoured art classes. “I’ve always been a visual artist, but I couldn’t see how anyone could make a living at it,” she says, “I had plans to go to medical school, but orchestra was so fulfilling I ended up getting all of my degrees in music performance.” She has a doctoral degree in bassoon performance, and after serving 9 years as a music professor at MSU, she is now painting again. And while she has studied the works of other feather painters to develop her own technique, she is completely self-taught.
The beauty of Mississippi’s natural resources serves as the backdrop for a craft that is nothing less than spectacular. FeatherMore specializes in painted feathers, which are mounted and framed behind glass or displayed inside glass bulbs as ornaments. Elaine does all of her own framing, repurposing and recycling old frames that are also transformed into shadowboxes.
Elaine explains, “I paint feathers with the intention of highlighting their natural shape and beauty. My aim is to never compete with or cover the feather, but to compliment it by allowing its shape, texture and color to guide my design choices. I personally know the names of many of the birds that provide canvases for my acrylic paint. The feathers are framed and mounted in a way that does not damage them, so they may be reframed later, if you choose.”
Parrot, peacock, guinea fowl, and turkey are the birds she regularly uses. All of the feathers come from Mississippi and Alabama sources, and most are purchased from small family farms that raise free-range fowl, specifically for collecting feathers that the birds have naturally dropped. They are all legal to own, and all feathers have been cleaned and sterilized before the painting process begins.
Elaine draws her inspiration from many areas, including things in her daily life, Mississippi themes, and ideas from her “dream world”. She prefers to work in large devoted blocks of time doing similar tasks, and says, “One day I will only paint. The next day I will make only shadowboxes. The following day I will spend my time framing. I find this focused approach to be more efficient and more fun. Once I get in the groove of something I like to keep going uninterrupted.”
This Mississippi artist shares the best advice she ever received, “The only time that exists is now, and so do it right now. Carpe diem.” And her advice to others is, “If you want to be successful, find the thing that brings you flow (as defined by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) and devote yourself to it.”
Inspiring words from a woman who purchased a small painted feather in Puerto Rico as a souvenir, that would inspire her to create the clever, fanciful, genius that is FeatherMore.
By Liz Walker
Taken from Magnolia State of Mind 2013 edition. The official magazine of the Mississippi Craft Show. www.magnoliastateofmind.com
About the Mississippi Craft Show
Mississippi Craft Show – August. The state’s only 100% Mississippi Handmade art and craft show. Featuring handworks from Mississippi craftsmen. www.mscraftshow.com
Handmade USA Show – March. The same quality handworks you expect at the August show from Mississippi craftsmen and also from across the region. All 100% handmade in the USA. www.handmadeusashow.com