ROADKILL TO RED CARPET
FARMER. FORAGER. FEATHER FASHIONISTA.
Meet Liz, the creative who forages for fashion and turns roadkill into red carpet looks.
Liz, say hello to our Country Meets Creative readers! Can you tell them a little bit about yourself, your background and introduce your business?
4.00 pm. Soaking wet. Starving. I’m just in through the door, and suffering from a severely pricked conscience – I should have been writing this days ago, but that’s the occupational hazard of life on a farm!
For my husband, our two children, and me, it’s one of the busiest weeks in the year. We have a commercial flock of North Country Cheviot sheep, and the last few days have been spent sorting through the ewes, checking their health, and grouping them together for tupping. Once the tups are turned out into the fields, our work will be done (for now!) and we can leave them alone, to let nature take its course. This will allow me to return my full attention to creating the beautiful, unique feathery items, which are what ‘Exclusively Liz’ is all about!
Tell us about that moment you saw a pheasant on the road and thought, you’re going to look beautiful on the wall!
Whether it was in my professional capacity as a prop design and display artist, or just to create something for my home, I have always been designing and making things. The day I drove around a bend in the road to discover a stunning, but dead, cock pheasant in my path, I had no immediate idea what I was going to do with it, only that I had to do something with those incredible iridescent feathers! The idea to utilise the feathers for a mirror, was borne out of a mirror design concept I’d previously been thinking about. Whilst I’d worked out the mechanics of my design, I hadn’t decided how I’d decorate the frame – it suddenly occurred to me that I’d found my solution lying in the middle of that road, and so my first feather mirror was created!
What’s your favourite game bird to work with?
I use all sorts of feathers, ranging from those collected beneath the pigeon nests in our cattle courts, to the large showy plumes of a peacock, but maybe it’s because a pheasant was my original inspiration, that they are my favourite. The myriad of colours within the pheasant types is unbelievable, and of course, whilst the cock pheasants have the brilliance of colour and iridescence, the hen pheasant feathers are equally beautiful, with their velvety appearance, and subtle colouring.
What’s the best story behind feathers or a bird you’ve been gifted?
The game, bronze turkey, white turkey, peacock and chicken feathers are all from within my own home area, but occasionally, they might come from further afield! One such example was a couple of years ago, when we were visiting a friend in Iceland. A small group of us were standing in his yard, admiring one of his young stallions, when I became aware that just around the corner from us, his cat had cold bloodedly murdered a wee bird! As everybody else continued the tour of the stables, I covertly hung back, and plucked the bird, collecting the feathers in a tissue from my pocket. Anybody that knows me well wouldn’t bat an eyelid at this strange activity, but I was aware that my actions might not translate so easily! I have since used the feathers to good effect in pendants, but each time I do so, I recall the ridiculousness of secretly plucking a bird, which had been extricated from an angry cat!
What’s the most treasured piece you’ve made?
I’ve always strived to create completely unique pieces, and whilst the process of developing a new idea can be frustrating at times, nothing gives me a better kick than when I hear people comment “that’s beautiful – I’ve never seen anything like it before.” I’ve developed the concept of feathering shoes, and designed the first ever ‘real feather phone case’, and continue to experiment with different applications for feathers, but my most treasured piece has to be the first mirror I made. In contrast to subsequent pieces, it’s not perfect, and doesn’t bear particularly close scrutiny, but it was the ‘eureka moment’ that I’d made something which nobody else had ever thought of.
Feather mirror, feather headpiece or feather shoes?
You can’t seriously be asking me this question – I’d sooner tell you which is my favourite child!!! A lifetime of wellies and yardboots has given my feet the unconfined scope to be quite wide, therefore, restricting my choice of footwear, to something which ‘Clarks’ in their wisdom, have decided should be verging on the ‘orthopaedic’ in appearance! It was the quest for me to have ‘gorgeous’ shoes which led to me originally experimenting with feathering them, so maybe ‘shoes’ is the answer, but don’t tell ‘mirror’ or ‘headpiece’ that I said that!
Where can folks buy your work?
I will unashamedly say that I’m very good at designing and making items but I’m not so good at the IT side of things! However, I do have an Instagram page (@exclusivelylizp) and Facebook page (@Exclusively Liz – Liz Phillips) both of which I keep updated with the latest creations. Folk are very welcome to contact me through either of these pages. My favourite thing is to make something specifically for a customer, taking into account their colour preferences, style, and use of the item. During the making process I like to keep the customer involved, sending regular ‘progress’ photos, and any further ideas I might have.
It’s a busy life of farming, feathers and family, sometimes it’s juggling, a lot of the time it’s exhausting, but all of the time, its great fun!