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MailTribune.com
  • Artist creates Western scenes on surfaces made out of turkey feathers

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  • COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
    Lori Dawn Dehlinger wanted to paint on a different surface. Not velvet-different or slabs-of-wood-different or antique-saw-different but REALLY different.
    Wild turkey feathers hit the bull's-eye.
    Painting in oil, the former country singer adorns the sizable tail feathers of Ben Franklin's favorite bird with Western subjects ' horses, cattle, deer, elk, wolves, cougars, trout, mountains, waterfalls, rodeo scenes, American Indians.
    You name it, I've painted it, she says.
    Dehlinger's art can be seen at Stone Tech, 1491 Burlcrest Drive, Medford, and Jeff Land at American Trails in Ashland says it will soon be featured at .
    — The poultry industry in the United States generates about — billion pounds of feathers a year, and you can buy turkey feathers online for about &
    36;4 per three ounces, or about 800 feathers. Dehlinger doesn't need to buy them. Her daughter's boyfriend and his buddies are avid turkey hunters and keep her well supplied.
    And a lot of times you can find them laying on the ground, she says.
    If the medium is the message, what's the message of turkey feathers?
    I think it looks just as good as canvas, Dehlinger says. It's really fun. It gives it something unlike everything else.
    It comes with some limits. Your typical large tail feather is a couple of inches wide and maybe 6 or 8 inches long, so Dehlinger is not going to specialize in large panoramas. But she likes to place her subjects against Western landscapes. If she needs a wide scope, she might put two or three feathers together.
    I'll see an animal I like somewhere, she says. And maybe a mountain somewhere. Then I'll take a waterfall I see somewhere else.
    A wild turkey has about 3,500 feathers. Bird feathers are mostly protein and are closely related to reptile scales. A wild turkey's tail feathers are used not only for flight but also in mating displays, like a peacock, to which the turkey is related.
    Turkey feathers were used for arrow fletching, headdresses, ceremonial fans and even woven into capes by American Indians in the Northeast. In the Southwest they were used as blankets by Pueblo people and in religious ceremonies by the Zuni.
    Dehlinger's husband, Bill, makes the frames for her paintings. She does her own matting and makes the shadow boxes. The finished works sell for &
    36;350.
    In the early days of her Turkey Period, about 10 years ago, she gave away paintings as gifts. But it turned out there was a market for oil paintings on turkey feathers, and she was soon selling at shows and fairs and taking custom orders.
    It's like amazing how much better they are now, she says, eyeing her work. I was going to get rid of the old ones, and my daughter's like, 'Mom, you gotta keep them and see how much better you got.'
    Dehlinger comes by Western themes honestly. She grew up in Shady Cove, a daughter of Johnny Millard, a well-known rodeo cowboy and stock contractor who ran the Antelope Arena near Eagle Point.
    She and her sister began singing in church, and she later pursued a career as a singer, cutting a couple of albums in Nashville as Lori Dawn and performing on cruise ships ' until they asked her to move to Nashville.
    You know what? I'd had enough travel, she says. It felt good to light.
    She and Bill live near Klamath Falls.
    Dehlinger figures she's done many hundreds of feather paintings over the years. She thinks the best are the animals.
    That's like my favorite thing to paint, she says.
    She's also thinking of creating a series of paintings of NASCAR race cars.
    Reach reporter Bill Varbleat 776-4478 or e-mail And now for something completely different"bvarble@mailtribune.com.

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