The Owl – snake,owl,puma finale

It seems fitting that I finish the Snake, Owl and Maybe a Puma series with the owl, given that my original inspiration was from a photo of one that my daughter sent to me from this article. I intentionally saved this one for last. Owl’s are my favorite bird and I’ve created a few before but never one integrated into the wood. Finding the right piece of wood was key.

Raw unfinished piece of live edge slab of walnut that will be used to create an owl.
Original Slab for Owl

A nice piece of walnut. It had some soft spots at the bottom but I was ok with that. Once I cleared the soft wood out, I had plenty of space to inlay felt feathers. I tried to convince the man at the wood store that this was the perfect owl butt – he couldn’t see it ;(

Brought it home and sent my husband to work with his fancy workshop tools to route out the light wood in the center. This section will be for the owl head. Then it was wood finishing time so that I had the final colors for matching my fibers. I started first on the tail feathers.

I made many needle felted feathers using several shades of brown merino, as well as some lovely black e. friesian wool and suri alpaca blends I received from my friends at Sanctuary Wool. When you look closely at the bark, you can see quite a bit of variation and movement. I wanted the felt feathers to blend in as seamlessly as possible = smooth finish. There are several techniques to get a smooth finish when needle felting. With something as thin as feathers, an electric fabric shaver works wonders. Here is a picture of half of the feathers shaved. You can really see the difference!

Needle felted brown wool owl feathers inlaid into a live edge slab of walnut wood.
Owl tail feathers

The completed tail feathers integrated beautifully with the wood. I am extremely happy with how they turned out. Now that the tail feathers were done, I set my sights on the owl head. Getting a tight stripe to mimic the rings of the wood was going to require wet felting.

Needle felted brown wool owl feathers inlaid into a live edge slab of walnut wood.
Owl completed tail and head opening

I layered brown and tan merino sheets of fibers and created pre-felts. It was important that the sheets were felted enough to be solid but not too felted for the colors to blend together. In this case, I was also not careful with keeping my rolling even. I wanted there to be width variance between colors and bends and curls where the wool shrunk inconsistently. The wool was felted into its final shape once it was placed into the wood.

Brown and tan stripes created from wet felted merino wool in the outline of an owl head and neck.  These are inlaid inside of a piece of walnut.  The stripes of the felt mimic the rings of the walnut.
Creating Stripes for Owl Body

All that was left was to build out the owl face. This project was always taking liberties with any owl actually found in nature but the closest was the Barred Owl whose face I used for inspiration.

Felted wool barred owl made from brown and tan striped wool inlaid into a walnut slab as well as brown wool felt feathers inlaid into the live edge of the walnut bark
Finished Owl in Walnut

I will likely play with the eyes a bit more before I am officially done but it was close enough to share. Please comment, tweet or link back to my post if this series inspires you to mix mediums as well. I will be happy to showcase other’s work in future blog posts.

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