To appreciate craftsmanship is to look beyond what an item is and delve into how it came to be, says Will Pocklington.
The call of the crafts – Classique Feathers
Martin Puddifer, a BASC member and freelance writer, catches up with Vicky Taylor of Classique Feathers.
How it all started...
If Vicky Taylor hadn’t broken her leg in 2019, what grew to become Classique Feathers may still be just a hobby. The avid shoot day lover from Belbroughton, Worcestershire, enjoyed a varied 25-year career in operations management prior to setting up her own business. She has always liked making things, but it wasn’t until she was housebound for six weeks that she began to view her crafting skills in a different light – with a little help from her local shoot.
“I broke my leg on the Monday and we’d been shooting the previous Saturday,” Vicky recalls. “Luckily, I’d brought some feathers home and started making hat pins and brooches, posting images of them online.”
Classique Feathers is born
The 42-year-old continued making things even after she was back on her feet and it was soon obvious that her priorities were changing. Interest in her work grew steadily, too, and it wasn’t long before her friends became her first paying customers. Following their encouragement, Vicky attended a race meeting at Warwick and, after being “overwhelmed” by the response she received there, began to exhibit her collection at local country shows. Finally, she decided to go into business for herself and Classique Feathers was born.
“I had no grand plans for Classique Feathers when I started,” Vicky explains, “but I did have ambitions to exhibit at The Game Fair and see my hats on TV being worn at the Cheltenham Festival. I did both during my first full year’s trading after lockdown.”
Every feather counts
One of the most striking aspects of Vicky’s work, and a main source of her customers’ admiration, is that no item is ever the same. “I don’t design or draw anything beforehand. I just pick the feathers as I go,” she says. “I don’t even have a plan in my head, I just look at some feathers and decide how I’m going to pair them up.”
While Vicky has no formal training, she is blessed with a creative eye and near-instant access to a kaleidoscope of feathers she collects during the shooting season, even plucking 100 birds a week herself. Waste is an absolute no-no and every effort is made to use as many feathers as possible, not least because of their raw beauty.
“It’s the colours,” Vicky explains. “Until you actually look at a bird close up you don’t realise how many different colours gamebirds have. A shoot I visit in the Cotswolds has the most beautiful pheasants that I have ever seen – Japanese green, melanistic, Reeves’s – and some of the colours are just mind-blowing. There is no such thing as a poor-quality feather. I will wash anything with a mark on it and curl those feathers which might have parts missing.”
A growing range of items
Vicky can comfortably create 50-60 hat pins, around ten wreaths, and an assortment of cartridge crafts in a week. You can find her and her mother Sandra at major country shows during the summer, with the winter months reserved for commissions, often for small businesses and online sales. Classique Feathers’ range has grown to include a vast array of country home decor, with products shipped to an international client base. Last December, the inaugural Country Girls UK ball featured Vicky’s table centrepieces and she also donates a wreath to a different shooting pub near home each season.
The call of the crafts series...
Fancy reading about other talented individuals in our ranks? Check out the other articles in this series: