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Kelowna artist uses feathers to create sustainable, unique art

Rosemarie Stevenson uses discarded feathers to create unique art pieces.
Image Credit: Rosemarie Stevenson

Kelowna artist Rosemarie Stevenson is using feathers to create unique, recycled art pieces.

“The things that other people regard as being junk… I see (as) opportunities,” Stevenson told “Beautiful things, for me, are opportunities. Like, ‘oh, I can do this, or I can do so much with that.’ And that just makes me happy. It makes my day.”

Rosemarie only discovered her passion for painting during lockdown.

“I love being creative,” Rosemarie said. “(I remember) sitting with my mother, she was a sculptor, and I remember vividly sitting next to her, trying to do whatever she did and (I was) always unhappy because mine were always horrible and hers were always perfect.”

Rosemarie had been living in Maple Ridge before the pandemic and was about to apply for permanent residency with her family. However during lockdown, she and her family had to return to the Netherlands, where she grew up.

During this time her daughter expressed an interest in painting stones, and Rosemarie’s dormant creativity blossomed from there.

“My daughter had a thing where the teachers gave all the kids a rock and they started to paint on the rocks and then spread the joy throughout the neighbourhood,” Stevenson said. “So, she started it, she really liked it. But what she found a shame is that after she painted on the rocks and she spread it in the neighbourhood, she never heard anything about it anymore.”

Rosemarie said they she started numbering the painted rocks and posting them to a website where people could post pictures of the rocks when they found them.

“It was all like in a whimsical, like oh let's just do something creative with your daughter, let's just do something nice for the environment or for the community and spread some joy, some happiness and kindness,” she said.

Unknown to her at the time, Rosemarie’s rock paintings would unfold into a successful small business where she would create commissioned pieces for clients across the Netherlands.

Rock painting by Rosemarie Stevenson.
Rock painting by Rosemarie Stevenson.
Image Credit: Rosemarie Stevenson, Submitted.

While on a walk out in nature in Holland, Stevenson stumbled upon a new medium for her paintings.

“I love walking and I found a feather on the floor. I was like, you know what, I should really try painting that because I love painting the birds,” she said. “So, I tried it and I found out it's challenging, which I love. You know, it's a new medium, very delicate. So, you have to be extremely gentle while painting it…. There's no re-dos. With a rock, you can paint over it. But from a feather, there's no re-do because you can't even wash it away.”

Rosemarie started collecting more feathers on her walks. She would take them home and carefully prepare them for painting by using a hydroperoxide solution to clean them.

While perfecting her feather painting craft, Stevenson and her family were also applying for residency in Canada. This August, Stevenson and her family were finally able to make the move back to Canada, this time settling in Kelowna. 

In a new location, Stevenson said she found it difficult to source enough feathers on her walks to continue making her art.

“I found that very, very challenging. I was always left with the fact that I'm always depending on finding feathers, you know, because I can't just ask a bird ‘can you lend me some feathers?’” she said. “I mentioned to Glenmore (Facebook group)… if somebody's finding feathers, I love painting them. Shoot me a message, I'd love to have them. Because especially now with turkey season I'm thinking, you know, those feathers will be perfect.”

Rosemarie received an overwhelming response on the Facebook group and was encouraged to join the Okanagan Poultry Group to source more feathers from local farmers.

“I didn't even know something like that existed,” she said. “Within no time, I had a bag full of feathers.”

Rosemarie was sent hundreds of goose feathers and will soon be delivered turkey feathers from the thanksgiving birds.

The feathers that Rosemarie uses for her art would otherwise be discarded, and recycling and resourcefulness are a key theme of her work.

Rosemarie said she sources her acrylic paints second-hand. She even uses recycled plastic bags and paper envelopes to wrap her art projects in once they are completed.

“If I get gift wrapping paper or gift-wrapping bags or anything, I don't throw them away. I use them,” she said. “All these little things that people normally just disregard, throw away… I don't.”

Rosemarie said that the overwhelming online response has brought her a lot of joy and gratitude.

“I'm so grateful for all the people… that react(ed) to my post because when you're an artist, painting is fun, but it's not as fun as the commentary you get on your piece,” she said.

“That's why artists make art,” she said. “Sometimes I see myself making something and I think, oh, it's not good enough. And I'm extremely critical of myself. So, sometimes when you are giving feedback to an artist to say it's beautiful, it just makes them feel better.”

Owl feather artwork created by Rosemarie Stevenson.
Owl feather artwork created by Rosemarie Stevenson.
Image Credit: Rosemarie Stevenson, Submitted.

Feather painting by Rosemarie Stevenson.
Feather painting by Rosemarie Stevenson.
Image Credit: Rosemarie Stevenson, Submitted.

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