Knock Knock…Who’s there?…Animal Planet!!!

JULY 21—AN EMAIL

My name is Tristyn Sackmary and I’m an associate producer for the Animal Planet TV show called “Must Love Cats.” I am interested in learning more about your cat hair jewelry… I wanted to inquire to see if you would be interested in participating in our show. 

Yes I was interested!!! And August 30 was the date the crew would come to both the apartment in San Francisco and then to my art studio.

Gaia had no idea what was up. I kept it a secret from him so he would not get too nervous or too excited—he does have a habit of knowing how to steal the show! Well I was NOT OK! I was having trouble sleeping as the days grew nearer. In particular I was worried over one thing: host John Fulton and I would be making a necklace together in my studio. I decided not to leave this to chance. I worked out an idea then pre-made the pieces to save time, like they probably do on those cooking shows on TV.

AUGUST 30—HERE THEY COME!

THEY ARRIVED AT THE APARTMENT Boy was I nervous! I had never been filmed or on TV. And I would not see the finished product until it aired in 2012! So I made a choice, be nervous or have fun. OK, lets have FUN with this!

The whole process lasted ALL DAY! They started filming at 9:30 am and finished at 6:00 that evening. The filming method was spontaneous—no script, just improvise and deliver extemporaneously.

John Fulton wrote a song for Gaia called “Crafty Kitty.” He played it both on his guitar and on David’s piano. And Gaia was great, he was a star! So mellow and friendly even with six strangers in the house. He was brushed and held and followed around with a camera. John kept asking “what does Gaia get from this?”—referring to my use of his cat hair to make the jewelry. My response was more hall privileges! He does love to go out in that hall at least twice a day.

THEN OFF TO THE STUDIO We formed a car caravan, drove through San Francisco rush hour traffic, and luckily found parking for 3 cars in a row. There John and I “co-produced” a cat hair necklace. Then we were done. I was exhausted and drained. I was so tired I felt like a zombie. And that night I could not sleep. My mind kept processing and reprocessing that whole day over and over and over again. The whole event seemed so surreal. Did it really happen?!

STAY TUNED FOR SHOWING DATE ON MUST LOVE CATS!

The “Becoming” of a Necklace

How Spiraled Cat Hair Puffs came to be.

This post is about my creative process—my thinking and nonthinking as I come up with an idea for a necklace.

It starts with an urge—a knowing, a desire to create something. It then expresses itself as: OK, I’am ready to make something! Next, I literally sleep on this urge, allowing its energy to formulate images in my mind just before I go to sleep. I don’t do drawings. What I do instead is draw with my mind, visualizing how the microsculptural cat necklace will look. I will do this for a few nights, then go to the next stage, which is to draw forth the mental images into its physicalness.

Then on to the studio. The process above led me to the visual idea of constructing a necklace with a cluster of cat hair puffs.

Cat hair puffs necklace in process

At my studio I drew out a quick sketch of my mental images. The drawing included a strand made from 2 pieces of leather with a hanging cluster of hair puffs. I went to work. First, I made the two strands, hiding wire inside so they would keep a curved shape when worn. Yet, I was not quite sure how to construct the cluster or for that matter, how to attach it. So, I played around with some ideas by closing my eyes then visualizing possible constructions. This process led me to remember my brass Spiraled Hairball necklace and how I spiraled wire to contain the hair puffs. I went to work again, spiraling each puff with copper wire and leaving an excess “tail” for attaching to the strand. At this point I was unsure how I would be able to do this.

The necklace is completed. After working, and then reworking possible ideas, I figured out the final construction details—and here it is below.

Finished Spiral Puffs Cat hair Necklace

Raw Turkey

It seems like eons ago that I started cooking for my cats. In the meantime I switched from cooking to un-cooking or a predominately RAW diet.

My first subjects, Ebi and Uni, were about 6 years old when I shifted their diet away from the quality canned + dry diet they grew up on. The new diet did not go over very well at first. They fussed, they protested, they hunger-striked. Uni finally got the hang of it but Ebi was still resisting. I felt something was up when Ebi was insisting on going out in the hall more urgently each am and pm. Hall visits were a regular routine anyway, allowing them a diversion to check out noises and smells. Anyway, I caught Ebi sneaking behind a folding screen that I had set up in the hall to store items behind, one being an unopened bag of kibble. And there she was! She was eating from a hole she had chewed and ripped into the top of the bag!! That ended and she finally got to loving her new food.

Ebi is now almost 21 years old and is now eating a RAW diet with gusto!

Uni and Ebi eating a home coked dinner

A RAW FOOD DIET FOR CATS that contains grains and some vegetables is closer to what a cat in the wild would have eaten. And they would have eaten rodents and birds which have some sort of vegetable/grain in their stomachs. In the past cats were workers, as were dogs. On the farm or in the city, it was the cat’s job to catch the rodents before they entered the stored grain in the barn or our homes. Those cats probably enjoyed fresh cream and table scraps as well as a treat. The change over to canned food happened in the 1880’s, (think of the industrial revolution) with a company named Spratt with it’s Patented Cat Food. 

mixed pot of raw food

stacked in freezer

I was going to include my recipe but then I thought it might be too much work for most people. And, besides, you can order raw cat food online or pick it up at a supermarket such as Whole Foods. If you live in San Francisco, Jeffrey’s makes an excellent product.

Gaia Eating his Raw Turkey dinner

From feline fur to fashion statement

I submitted this article in December 2010, 6 months later it was printed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011—The Chronicle’s Pet Tales by Eileen Mitchell

It’s a well-known fact that cats love to play with balls. But how many cats play with balls made from their own hair? And how many cat guardians wear hair-ball necklaces? Flora Davis is a jewelry designer who observed her creative kitty, and then mined her cat to come up with a most unique idea.

Gaia is a flame point ragamuffin, whose luxurious fur is long, thick and white with a salmon accent. His hair is more similar to rabbit than cat and needs to be combed at least once a week or it starts to mat. When Gaia was a year old, I discovered that a rolling comb delivered mounds of fluffy hair. Ordinarily I would have thrown the hair into the compost, but it felt so soft in my hands, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. As I examined his beautiful hair, I started rolling it into a ball and then, on impulse, I threw it to him. He loved it!

We now play “get the ball” with Gaia’s very own personalized hair balls. I toss a ball and he chases after it, batting it around the apartment like the most expensive toy from PetSmart. He even plays on his own, chasing after it in his mouth, tossing it, and then running after it again.

All of Gaia’s grooming sessions now result in a new hair ball, and I have perfected the technique. I begin with a small handful of fluff and mold it into a starter ball. To this I mold more fluff around the edges, puff some wet breath onto it, which felts the hair, and then using both palms, I roll it back and forth until a tight solid ball forms. Over time, I discovered that Gaia preferred to play with smaller size balls. Voila! Production was under way.

But Gaia is a serious shedder and over time, the balls began to accumulate around the apartment: under the couch, behind the stove, in the closet, as well as in his sleeping basket. Awash in hair balls, I gathered a bowlful and placed them on top of the piano. Surprisingly, the balls had a lovely appearance that reminded me of oversized white pearls. This was my inspiration for using Gaia’s “toys” in another way that would display my love for this special cat.

I’ve been making jewelry for about three years and wondered: Could I string the hair balls together to create an interesting, unique piece of jewelry? Whatever the outcome, I figured the result would be a portable reminder of my soft, furry creature.

And so, I gathered the numerous balls together and pierced and strung them with fine copper wire into a necklace with an asymmetrical focal point. The result was an overwhelming hit at the 2010 San Francisco Open Studios reception where I wore the necklace with a black V-cut blouse. Amidst compliments galore, everyone was astonished to learn that the stunning work of art was made from – of all things – cat hair.

I just smiled, grateful not to have allergies. And I paid silent tribute to my vendor, companion and love, Gaia.

Gaia wearing a necklace from from his hair

Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

As heard on NPR radio, July 2, 2011…

KASELL: My customers let out a fat purr. Your lady will know where it’s at, sir. I think feline remnants do make lovely pendants. It’s jewelry made out of?

Ms. HAGEN: Cat fur.

SAGAL: Cat fur, she said with horror, yes.

(Soundbite of bell) (Soundbite of applause)

SAGAL: British (American) cat owner Flora Davis has started selling cat hair jewelry.    Yeah, I know.

Ms. HAGEN: Okay.

SAGAL: In any event, be careful. If you see someone with a ball of cat fur stuck to their sweater, just don’t reach over and pick it off. It might be a $200 broach they bought on etsy.com.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: Or it might be a hairball. Either way, don’t touch it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sweet Gaia

Keep it Weird—A Hairy Tale

There is attraction and repulsion to the unusual.

In the beginning of June, Etsy had a post on its blog called Keep it Weird: Cat Lady, and “Caged” hair puff necklace was featured. Next came Catsparella (which featured a nice post with pictures), Modern Cat, and Laughing Squid. Then an article in Wired UK, which contributed to the cat hair jewelry phenomenon going viral.

The comments to the jewelry went from one extreme to the other—creepy to awesome.

Some Hair History— hair jewelry was the height of the romanticism and sentiment that characterized the Victorian era. Some pieces were done as mourning pieces or “momento mori”.  While some may find this morbid, for the Victorians death was a common and accepted part of everyday life especially due to the higher infant mortality rate of the time, and the devastation of the Civil War. Hair jewelry was not always mourning jewelry, however, as it was also crafted as love tokens from sweethearts, family members and cherished friends.

It is interesting to note that when hair is on the head, we take pride in it, and the same could be said for hair on an animal, it usually evokes a pleasant experience.                 BUT, once it leaves it roots, aversion can set in and take over.

Beyond the string of “pearls”

Enough of stringing rounded puffs of cat hair into necklaces!  They might be elegant but now I was ready to go artistic with Gaia’s hair!

The following piece’s inspiration was a sculpture I made using galvanized steel mesh.         I constructed a narrow box out of the mesh then closed it with brass wire. But before I did I placed 4 cat hair puffs inside. I named it “Caged”, a hip little number appropriately worn with a T and jeans.

Caged, March 2011

Gaia is fascinated by soap bubbles that are blown in the air and so my fourth microsculpture is in homage to his love of bubbles. It is constructed using wired leather that branches outward and upward, each branch point then topped with a cat hair puff. I envisioned wearing this one over a simple but elegant black v-neck dress to that gala artistic event.

Bubbles, June 2011