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Meet the Designer Behind These Gorgeous Feather Art Hangings

Meet the Designer Behind These Gorgeous Feather Art Hangings
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In a quiet room in the dreamy 1926 cream-brick Wisconsin farmhouse she shares with her husband and baby son, Kristen Leigh Baker creates striking wall hangings from feathers artfully hung from driftwood with suede twine. They are modern, boho, textural, and coveted by every last person on our staff, so we were thrilled to get a closer look at her process, dig into her inspiration, and learn that when it comes to a love of feathers, we’re, well, birds of a feather. “I’ve always been enamored with feathers,” says Kristen. “Not only are they stunning, but they’re resilient. They’re light and delicate but strong enough to weather a storm.”

Check out her inspiring studio and snap up one of her gorgeous pieces below.

Kristen in her studio perched on an ikat-print ottoman she uses as stylish extra storage.

Kristen in her studio perched on an ikat-print ottoman she uses as stylish extra storage.

Tell us about your background!
“I’ve been a makeup artist and hairstylist for 14 years. I moved around the country for about 10 years working in L.A., Miami, and New York, and then—never say never!—ended up back in my home state of Wisconsin.”

Have you always been a creative, artistic person?
“Yes! Ever since I was little. I would sit in front of toys or tchotchkes and draw them. And I was always the one to move the furniture around in our house growing up. I would put my little legs up on the wall and push the sofa with all my strength.”

A work in progress shows off Kristen’s love of contrasting color.

A work in progress shows off Kristen’s love of contrasting color.

When did you start creating your wall hangings?
“Last year, we had a miracle happen to us—and I don’t use that term lightly! We adopted a beautiful baby boy we named Weston. I took the past year off to be with him, which turned into an extremely creative time for me, and that’s when I started making them.”

Of all the materials in the world, how did you decide to work with feathers?
“I’ve always felt a connection to feathers and their spiritual meaning. I even have a feather tattoo! I don’t consider them a trend because they’re of nature, and are therefore timeless.”

Kristen wraps each feather with either black or white suede, depending on the design. Both demand a deft hand: The black is stiffer and requires a little TLC to coax into neat knots, while the white is more supple and easily breakable.

Kristen wraps each feather with either black or white suede, depending on the design. Both demand a deft hand: The black is stiffer and requires a little TLC to coax into neat knots, while the white is more supple and easily breakable.

How did you land on doing wall hangings?
“I wanted to dream up a modern approach to them—something other than a dream catcher. My wall hangings are an interesting alternative to framed artwork and add a textural element to a room. They can stand alone or be grouped together on a wall.”

How do you balance doing hair and makeup with crafting your wall hangings?
“I’m loving making them so much that I’ve backed off on hair and makeup. I book about two weeks a month of that and spend the rest of the time with my feathers.”

How would you describe your personal style?
“A little bohemian. A little rock and roll. A little edgy.”

Kristen stands while she works so that she can have a bird’s-eye view of each piece as it comes together.

Kristen stands while she works so that she can have a bird’s-eye view of each piece as it comes together.

Your studio is in your home—how do you make it work?
“My studio is basically just the one room in the house that was available! It was my office. It’s small, quaint, but just enough for me right now.”

What’s your favorite thing in your studio?
“The window, which overlooks our side yard with giant willows and magnolia trees. It’s so serene, and it sets the mood for a peaceful state of mind. When it’s calm, I’ll work with the window open, but otherwise it has to be closed or my feathers get blown all over the place.”

Of all the materials and items she works with, Kristen considers her hands to be her most valuable tool.

Of all the materials and items she works with, Kristen considers her hands to be her most valuable tool.

How have you decorated your studio?
“I keep a few things in there that mean a lot to me. I have vintage photos of my parents and of me and my sister when we were little. I’ve got a goofy statue of a dog with a bobble head—it’s just a toy that makes me smile. And some artwork that I’ve done and some from friends.”

Do you listen to music while working?
“Sometimes I like it quiet. But other times I like something mellow like Radiohead. I have a little Jambox that I love.”

When she’s creating a piece, Kristen will select feathers one by one based on where and how they’ll hang.

When she’s creating a piece, Kristen will select feathers one by one based on where and how they’ll hang.

What kinds of feathers do you use?
“Turkey, New Guinea hen, duck, peacock, Indian roller. They’re all sustainably sourced byproducts or naturally molted.”

Before you started doing your wall hangings, did you collect feathers?
“Yes! If I go horseback riding and I see a feather, it’s like a treasure to me. I’ve had people bring me feathers too because they know I love them. They’re all over my house in decorative bowls and under glass domes.”

She ties each knot thoughtfully, facing it in a certain direction so that the feather follows it.

She ties each knot thoughtfully, facing it in a certain direction so that the feather follows it.

Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
“Naturally I’m a night person, but the baby forces me to be a morning person!”

When do you feel the most creative?
“Lying in bed at night when I can quiet my mind and just let it wander. I keep a little sketchbook on my nightstand to capture design ideas that I think up then.”

Part gallery, part storage space, Kristen’s staircase is festooned with a rotating selection of her finished pieces before they get shipped out. She’d love to create a huge piece for herself to hang at the very top of her stairs.

Part gallery, part storage space, Kristen’s staircase is festooned with a rotating selection of her finished pieces before they get shipped out. She’d love to create a huge piece for herself to hang at the very top of her stairs.

Why do you love working with your hands?
“That feeling of creating something. Manipulating it. Sculpting it. Turning something into something really and materializing it. And feeling the feather. And working with a soft, supple suede. All the different textures. It feels grouding too.

After a long day’s work, Kristen kicks back in her entryway, which sports a striped floor she painted herself and a mix of vintage finds that exemplify her eclectic, effortlessly cool style.

After a long day’s work, Kristen kicks back in her entryway, which sports a striped floor she painted herself and a mix of vintage finds that exemplify her eclectic, effortlessly cool style.

What kinds of decor do you think your pieces pair well with?
“I’m dying to see them hung on beautiful wallpaper. Something drippy and custom-feeling like Calico or Eskayel.”

Is there anyone you’d love to have one of your wall hangings?
“When I made the black-and-gold-painted piece that’s hung on Lucite. I thought of Kelly Wearstler or Jonathan Adler. They both have that amazingly edgy style.”

Related: Meet the Woman Behind In-Demand Commune Design >

Join the Discussion

Join the Discussion

One Response to “Meet the Designer Behind These Gorgeous Feather Art Hangings”

  1. Casey Jones says:

    Those indian wallhangings are gorgeous! I would love to get some of those for my own home. I think they add a sense of adventure and rugged looks to the home.

    http://www.fullmoonloom.com/c-97-wall-hangings.aspx

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