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

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