Jenny Carcia is a busy chicken mom and artist. We’ve been collaborating on this blog post since late 2015, ever since I commissioned her to make one of her art dolls for me. In the meantime, Jenny’s work was also featured in Countryside Magazine, in an article by Jerri L. Cook! Jenny’s recreation of my long passed away hen, Fergie, was part of the article, which appeared in the May/June 2016 issue. The article is only available by subscription or in the print version, but here’s a link to a teaser: Recreation of Mrs. Ferguson by Jerri L. Cook
I asked Jenny a few questions about her chicken-making endeavor, and her actual chickens, too. Below are her words:
Chickens were actually my husbands idea. I was a tad resistant to the idea at first. I didn’t know anything about chickens. I was worried I would become too attached and that I would become the main caretaker. Once I agreed I pretty much dove in and immersed myself in every bit of information I could get my eyes on. I lived and breathed the starter info on My Pet Chickens website. I read and reread their info on the developing and care stages of chicks, and most importantly I thoroughly researched how to teach them to be pets and enjoy being handled.
My mom taught me quilting when I was in my early 20’s. I made several quilts, then stopped. I didn’t do much sewing for almost another 20 years, but I always had a sewing machine, as seen to by my mom. Over the years she would send little sewing notions that more often than not were somewhat random and puzzling to me. Also during those twenty years I was making art, mainly painting. A couple years after learning to quilt, I soon started graduate school for a degree in Painting. But realized I had a deep interest in fabric and was always thinking about it and sometimes trying to figure out how to incorporate it into my art work. This is all a very long and complicated story about process and progress and the making of art which evolved over the course of many years. Years later I found myself not making much art.
Now jump to getting chickens, they became my main interest. And after having them for a year or so and living and breathing chickens, and just being in love with everything about them, my creative impulses started pumping, and then it just kinda dawned on me to make chicken dolls.
I pulled out my sewing machine and the random containers and little bags of notions and a couple boxes of fabric I had saved over the years and wondered where to start. I came across those little triangle shaped pin cushion bean bag chickens, so I made a bunch of them. It was basically about me relearning how to sew. In the mean time I was slowly finding a real and purposeful use for all the little tools and notions I had collected over the years from my mom. My desire and obsession with making chicken dolls grew with the same madness I had applied to getting our first chicks. I immersed myself in the world of sewing, pattern making, and chickens. I was hooked and in love.
I am trying to be more aware of the time involved in making a hen. There is an extensive amount of backgound prep work that happens before I even sew anything. It takes about 4-6 weeks to complete a project. I don’t work 8 hours a day on one hen. I work in spurts. It’s the details that take time. Each section in building the hen takes several hours to complete. The most involved pieces are the custom pieces, re-creating a hen or rooster from photographs of someone’s pet chicken. And even more so with the memorial pieces. My Pocket hens can take 5-10 hours to make and then larger pieces take anywhere from 20-50+ hours depending on the amount of detail.
In my early years of finding my way as a painter I realized you cannot recreate the perfection of a sunset for example. I realized it is about capturing the spirit of the thing, not trying to perfectly re-create it. So in beginning to make a hen I study the subject, getting all the visual information and character.
It is a very difficult process for me to put into words. And I think this is where the art of making comes in. It’s something other than steps 1, 2, 3…. I know that the only way I am able to do what I do when I sew has nothing to do with skills in sewing, it has everything to do with being a painter and artist, my whole life. It’s just who I am, it’s how I look at everything, it’s the art of it.
Every single piece I make has it’s own unique pattern. I cut away at different areas depending on the personality of the particular subject. I start with the base pattern and pull from my experience as an artist to realize the final piece. And it all evolves the same way as when I used to make paintings and installation work. My work has changed greatly over the years, but my process was always the same-begin with a solid foundation and a vision of where I want the piece to go, and just use everything I know as an artist to build the piece and complete it. For me, building a hen is just like building a painting.
I never would have dreamed that my schedule would be full of orders for custom hens. That’s pretty much all I do, and I simply love it!
My current flock consists of 3 hens.
Buffy, a 5 year old Buff Orpington, is the head of the flock. She is the queen and can’t be bothered with digging or walking or chewing. She wants to eat perfectly soft tasty things, while being held and carried to where she needs to go. And when being held, she can tell if you’re not fully engaged and she will vocalize her displeasure. She seems to even know if I am not proactivley thinking about her, and again she will vocalize her displeasure.
5 yr old Pork Chop, a crazy Easter Egger, holds the number 2 position, based solely on the fact that she, along with Buffy are the first hens of this house. Pork Chop will always be the crazy love of my life. Even though she can be the most maddening hen in the group, deep down inside she is very dear to me. I feel as though she and I have a bond that no one else understands. Pork Chop appears to be the least intelligent in the flock, but there are times when I think she very intelligent and fully aware of all of her madness. She started out sweet, but she broke bad.
Latka is our 4 year old Easter Egger, and quite the acrobat. She is an angel, in my eyes she can never be bad or do anything wrong. She is the bottom of the pecking order and has a very dear heart so I look after her in a manner befitting a crazy chicken lady.
All my girls make me swoon in their own unique ways. They rule my life and there’s no turning back.
The incredibly lifelike Fergie doll gazes at the magazine article about how Jenny created her. Fergie (aka Mrs. Ferguson) was a silkie or mostly silkie mix, bantam size. Every time I look at the doll it is rather startling as she is so real!
Here’s where to find Jenny’s work! Pet Chicken Ranch
I hope you enjoyed this post. I’ve been so busy getting ready for art shows later this year, that I’ve kind of neglected doing more frequent posts, or getting out for bike rides to spot random chickens to write about.