Sally Linville has turned her childhood delight in chickens into fiber art creations. Working with a team of “chickeners”, each chicken footstool is created by hand and is uniquely individual. A variety of fiber art techniques are used to create each chicken.
Why make Chicken Footstools as artistic expression?
Chicken Footstools make people smile!
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I created the original two chickens, Henny and Penny, in a furniture design studio in graduate school, hoping to express my childhood delight in chickens and explore working with fiber, wood and bronze. Over the past 13 years, a community of artisans has come together around the continued creation of chickens. I am amazed by the evolution of fiber artistry coming from our studio— the sense of possibility only seems to expand.
What inspires a collection/flock? The Gee’s Bend Flock, for example, or When Feathers Come Together?
Inspiration for collections comes in different ways through different seasons of life at our studio. We hope our work expresses the celebration of beauty we see in creation and in other people. Each special collection (and each unique chicken in it) carry stories of these inspirations and of the gifted hands who sculpted them.
The Gee’s Bend Flock was born from our appreciation of the artistry of the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. We chose 12 favorite quilts to inspire our feather designs for 12 Chicken Footstools for the collection. We grew in many ways through the journey, influenced by the true creativity of those remarkable women. I recently had the privilege of visiting their community and chatting quilts and chickens together around a lunch table— an experience I will never forget.
The idea for “When Feathers Come Together: A Global Chicken Collection,” came from a desire to connect with and learn from other fiber artists around the world. The exhibit showcased feathers created by six women representing seven different countries. Communication happened remotely and then the artist’s feathers were sent to our studio to be upholstered onto our chicken forms. Displaying the chickens side-by-side at the exhibit truly captured the joy of the collaboration and celebrated the unique expressions of each maker.
How does one of your chickens come to life? How many chickeners does it take to, well, you know….? Tell us a bit about your collaborative process.
To give a general overview— the bronze is cast, the logs are collected, the wooden egg center is turned on the lathe, the steel chicken hips are cut and bolted to the egg, the egg is welded to the legs until it stands securely, the spring neck is attached to the beak and body, the frame is upholstered, the feathers are created by wet felting or spinning and knitting wool fiber, and then stitched onto the body with a needle and thread and stitch on the comb.
Long story short, each chicken passes through many gifted hands, ensuring the quality, authenticity and artistry that flows from our studio.
How do you know when a chicken is finished? Does she tell you?
I wish! That is always an artist’s challenge, isn’t it? Our finishing team spends a considerable amount of time digging our fingers around the whole chicken, checking in-between feathers to make sure everything feels secure and double checking that no underpants are showing.
How do you name your individual chickens?
Naming each chicken plays a special part in our creation and adoption process. I have always loved hearing people’s names and the stories behind them. We have a list of collected names that we are always refreshing. Once we stitch on the comb and get a sense of the chicken’s personality, we try to find the perfect name to match.
Paint a word picture of a City Girl Farm collector.
Our collectors are kind, supportive and have childlike hearts. The stories they share of the wonderful ways they enjoy their chickens encourage us to carry on this joyful work.
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?
I think my biggest challenge has become the strength of our studio— namely, my journey of letting go of control and inviting others into the work of creating Chicken Footstools. I remember timidly articulating directions to my first chickeners (one of which has become my co-creative director at the studio!), trying to put into words what I had learned to do naturally with my hands. As the team has grown, every person brings their unique gifts to the table so the artistry of the chickens continues to evolve. We have fun creating and sharing life together.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
Our website has become a gallery of chickens created and adopted into loving homes through the years. Visitors can browse through chickens based on colors, breeds and collections. Every time I scroll through these archives I find myself smiling, delighting in the memories they hold. (Please join our Early Bird newsletter to receive updates about monthly releases and studio updates).
Interview posted March 2023
Anna Petrow Photography
Kelsey Mahoney Photography
The City Girl Farm
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