Henry County Holiday Bazaar

Wildlife inspires Coombs’
turkey feather painting

He learned the craft
from an Amish man several years ago

By Helen McKinney
Contributing Writer

NEW CASTLE, Ky. (November 2007) – From the first time Rodger Coombs witnessed turkey feather art, he was hooked on this unique medium. Confident that he could emulate the art form, he tried his own hand at feather painting and was pleased with the result.

Roger Combs Art

Photos provided

Two examples of
Rodger Coombs’
feather painting, which
will be at the 15th
annual Henry County
Holiday Bazaar on
Saturday, Nov. 10.
Coombs uses pictures
of wildlife in magazines
as his inspiration
in his art.

Roger Combs Art

Several years ago Coombs, 61, attended a craft show in western Kentucky, where he witnessed an Amish man painting Amish scenes on feathers. Thinking to himself, “I can do that,” Coombs has been designing wildlife scenes on domesticated wild turkey feathers ever since.
Twelve hundred feathers later, Coombs said, “I’ve always kind of dabbled in art. I drew and painted a little bit and was inspired to do portraits in the late ‘80s.” But he found this art form too challenging to pursue.
Becoming more aggressive with his artwork, Coombs has attended a dozen art shows this year. He will be participating in the 15th annual Holiday Bazaar in New Castle, Ky., on Saturday, Nov. 10. The show runs from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Held at the Henry County 4H Fairgrounds Building, the event will feature more than 30 booths with one-of-a-kind hand crafted arts and crafts, organizers say. Visitors consider this a prime opportunity to get a head start on their holiday gift shopping.
Sponsored by the Henry County Extension Homemaker Organization, items for sale will include music boxes, hand-painted gourds, jewelry, turned wooden bowls, painted furniture, oil paintings, soy candles and holiday decorations. Prices range from $5 to $10 and up to $100 to $200. Senior citizens from Tri-County Community Action will serve lunch throughout the day.
“The bazaar was the initial idea of Joyce Meyer who was then serving on both the Extension Homemaker Council and the 4H Council,” said Maryellen Garrison, Henry County Extension Agent. “She was the visionary who saw a need for an outlet for our local artists and craftspeople.”
The main purpose of the bazaar is to encourage patrons to spend holiday dollars within the county. “The bazaar also serves as an incubator for small home-based businesses to test the waters with their products,” said Garrison.
Coombs participated in the bazaar for the first time last year and wanted to return to see all of the “hometown people.” Originally from nearby Pleasureville, Ky., he now lives in Bardstown, Ky.
His father ran a grocery store in Pleasureville, and he tried his hand at this for a while before deciding upon a different career path. After attending Eastern Kentucky University, Coombs taught school in Trimble County for three years.
Since 1981 he has worked for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife in the Information and Education Department. He frequently takes programs into schools and for the last 27 years has taught a summer conservation camp.
In his spare time, Coombs creates the feathers he sells singularly or in fans. The single feathers are sold framed in either cherry or walnut frames, crafted by a friend in Nelson County, Ky. The standing frames are balanced between two plexiglas plates.
Coombs usually knows before beginning a project what type of scene he will paint on a feather. He buys his feathers on Ebay. They have already been cleaned and dried.
He begins the process by spraying on a clear coat of acrylic paint to stiffen the feather slightly. He then paints the animal in a coat of white acrylic paint, going over it a second or third time until he has built up a surface on which to paint. He then paints deer, elk, turkey, bobcats, wolves or any number of woodland creatures onto the feather.
Coombs often paints an entire scene to provide a background if the animal is the same color as the feather. He said he is always looking for ideas in wildlife publications, such as “Field and Stream.”
Prices for Coombs’ artwork range from $30 to $59. Feathers are usually framed in two sizes and can be purchased as a 13-inch to 14-inch framed second tail fan feather or a 17-inch to 18-inch tail fan feather. Coombs sells many custom-made framed feathers for Christmas, with prices ranging from $75 to $125.
Coombs is a new member of the Henry County Arts and Crafts Guild, which will have many members participating in this bazaar. The guild looks for artwork similar to Coomb’s that is original, of high quality and has a distinct mark of craftsmanship, said member and past president Sharon Silvers.
The bazaar provides “another chance to sell our work,” she said. The guild hosts an art show for members in September, but the bazaar provides one more opportunity closer to the holidays for many of the members who craft holiday items.
“The guild members like to participate in county functions,” Silvers said. Many patrons try to visit the bazaar each year and look for their favorite craftspeople.
“The sponsorship of the Henry County Cooperative Extension Service and their belief that this is an important economic development activity that benefits our local farm community and the many small business people we have” has kept the bazaar going for the past 15 years, said Garrison.

• For more information, contact the Henry County Extension Office at (502) 845-2811.

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