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Travel Log by Figue, New York

Posted October 14, 2015


In addition to our undying love of fringe and pom poms, we are absolutely wild for feathers, especially these earrings from Kapoeta by Ambica. Launched five years ago by Kenyan-born artisan Ambica Shah, her brand is a luxury collection of feather jewelry and accessories with an eco spirit. We love this burgeoning brand not only for the intricate metal work and layers of soft plumes, but also for its sustainable sourcing and production practices. Ambica draws inspiration from tribal cultures around the world and the way feathers have been used traditionally in symbolic expression and ritual. As the saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together!”

Below, Ambica shares the intricate process behind her creations and how the community is never far from her mind.


Describe your design process:

First I do the beadwork. Then I handselect the feathers. This is an intricate process especially if I am making a pair of earrings; the feathers have to be more or less symmetrical for each side. If I am making earrings with color, I have to dye the feathers a day before. I use hot water, let them sit for twenty-four hours and then dry them for an hour in the sun before using a hairdryer so that the barnacles return to their natural shape. Then I cut them to size and remove any fluff (all feathers have been fumigated and sterilized). Finally, I join the feathers in layers using crush beads and attach them to leather strips. How I attach them is critical to how the earring will flow.


What are some of your secrets for working with feathers?

I use clothing dye to color the feathers. I use a hair dryer if the feathers ever get wet – for instance if you get caught in a storm or thrown in the pool. You can also use a curling iron to curl the feathers into the desired shape, which is especially useful when working with quill feathers.


How does the community come into play?

I am a one-woman show. However, I would not be where I am if it was not for the people who help me source. I depend on the fly-fishing industry for the feathers and use only those from hybrid birds as it is considered a renewable source and in line with Kapoeta's ethos. I also outsource all my packaging to two entrepreneurs, one of which has a rehabilitation youth project taking in youngsters off the street and giving them jobs making gift bags out of recycled paper. The money raised goes toward education. I source the other packaging from a man who runs a small private business making beautiful lightweight boxes out of dried banana leaves.





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