Every so often, when scrolling through Instagram, something just POPS! Erin Summers’ or Erin Lightfeather’s, (as she is known as on the interweb!) vibrant feathery creations have so far attracted over 19 thousand grammers, and boy is she a must follow! Talk about unique, Erin’s creations vary from loose feathers, millenary, mobiles, wall-hangings and eyelashes!? (see above). With a jewellery line on the way, Erin’s ethically sourced, quirky art is sure to have you following before you can say tweet tweet!
Based in Toronto Canada, Erin is a fair flight away from our little Aussie town in the suburbs of Melbourne, however we were lucky enough to steal some of her time to discuss the power of social media and of course all things feathers!
The question I’m sure a lot of people are thinking as they scroll through your quirky feed, is WHY FEATHERS? Don’t get us wrong, you have made it work! But what drew you to feathers specifically for your art?
Hahaha I get asked this question a LOT. So random, right? As you can see, I have a particular love for feathers. I started working with them almost a decade ago when I first starting dabbling in the world of bridal accessories. I just fell in love with their beauty and versatility. Try as I might, I have not found a material to work with that comes close to the delicate beauty of a feather. It must have been destiny because when I signed up for Instagram last May I wasn’t thinking feathers, or business. I started it during a creative rut as an online portfolio to post inspo, DIY projects and that sort of thing. (I choose the name “Lightfeather simply on a whim since “@erinsummer” was taken and I happened to be dying a batch of feathers that day.) I realised early on that my feather posts were generating more likes and engagement than anything else I was doing, so it gave me the confidence to streamline my work in that direction.
Where did you learn to create such beautiful colours and designs using feathers? Or was it just through experimentation with art?
Purely through experimentation and a desire to create something new and exciting with this one very specific medium.
What do you create with your feathers?
All sorts of things! I started off doing millinery and batch orders of loose feathers for fashion/design, but lately I have been doing a lot more mobiles and wall hangings. I am trying to develop a jewellery line which I work on in my spare time as a passion project.
Your feathers are ethically sourced, which is awesome and so important! Where do you actually get you feathers?
I currently source my feathers from 4 waterfowl farms in Canada. I mainly use goose and duck feathers, and the ones I receive from them are naturally shed. I also get some more exotic feathers like ostrich and peacock from a peafowl aviary and a ostrich farm. every once in a while I will have bird owners reach out to me asking if I’d like a few of their pet bird’s shed feathers. Recently, I have also had some hunter touch base to see if I might like some of the feathers from their hunt. For me, ethical mean absolutely NO live-plucking, no tiny cages, no fear or abuse. I source my feathers from a free range environment where the birds have been given an opportunity to roam free and live a happy healthy life.
What does ethically sourcing your feathers mean to you?
It means everything. I could not in good conscious make art knowing that I was exploiting another living creature.. When I first started working with feathers, I never really put much thought into where they came from. It wasn’t until I started using feathers as my main medium that I did the research, and I was really horrified with myself. I had no idea that there was a lot of unethical feather-harvesting practices in the feather industry. Since then, I only work with cruelty-free feathers. It can be quite costly and fairly limiting in variety- but those limits in turn have been an inspiration. I have been able to paint, trim, sculpt, and decorate my feathers in a variety of shapes and colours that make it seem like I have a wild assortment to choose from.
How has social media allowed your art to gain exposure? Did your followers occur naturally or did it take work to get yourself out there!?
Social media- particularly Instagram-has been instrumental in my exposure and success. At this point, about 75% of my clientele finds me, or has been referred to me via Instagram. It’s been incredibly validating for me as an artist, and has given me the push that I needed to move forward with my very niche art form. I had to work really hard at the beginning to gain exposure. I used to spend HOURS on Instagram cruising through my favourite hashtags, and liking and commenting on everything that caught my eye. I really just dove in head first and tried to engage as much as possible. I think that benefitted me a lot the first 6 months and then I started to get noticed by larger accounts who would feature me, and drive a lot of traffic my way. Since then, my numbers have really snowballed and I am so fortunate.
What’s your proudest moment since starting your business/passion project?
The day when I realised that I had created a full time career doing what I love!
What are your BIG visions when it comes to your art and Insta!? Where do you see your art heading with the new website coming?
That’s a great question! Truthfully, I am still trying to figure out what I am, and what it is that I do (best). I have so many orders/commissions on the go that I am always just trying to catch up. I’d love to be more organised, be able to create some ready to order pieces, launch my jewellery line, and perhaps have some of my work carried by other retailers. It would also be fun to collaborate with other artists and designers!
What advice do you give to young artists?
Get on social media. Start an Instagram account. Follow and engage with other artists you admire. Post photos of your work. ask your following for feedback. When you support other artists, they tend to support you in return. Experiment and have fun! Try not to let the success of other artists discourage you. Stay true to your art, and devote a little time -even just 5 minutes- to it a day. It’s never too late to pursue your passion.
We loved getting to know Erin and we hope you did too! Something really noteworthy Erin mentioned was to “not let the success of others discourage you“, this is such essential advice in todays world. We are all constantly bombarded on social media by the success of others, and sometimes (we know!) it can be disheartening if you feel that your success hasn’t quite hit it’s peak yet. It is so important to remember to keep chipping away at your goals and your dreams! Focus on YOU and your time will come!
Keep a look out for Erin’s website coming soon, but in the meantime you can follow her Instagram page here at @erinlightfeather, and for more questions or enquiries regarding her work you can send any messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.