This is a coat I made from five second-hand coats that cost me about 60 dollars: a purple and orange brocade, a fox fur, two red-orange leather, and a mustard leather. When I cut up the fur coat, I felt as if I was murdering a Muppet, so the first working title of the piece was “Sweetums.” As I sliced everything up and stuck it together, the size and apparent preposterousness of it earned it the name “The President of The Galaxy” because I wasn’t sure I could wear it – the coat’s ego seemed to be getting bigger than mine. I imagined it was the sort of thing Zaphod Beeblebrox would wear while stealing spaceships in The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, because part of the original plan was to make it more techno-barbarian than just plain old barbarian; I had planned to attach a circuit-board in the middle of the red leather on the back, but changed my mind. Halfway through, I was surprised by the sheer weight of it – but then I added the rocks.
The final touch to the coat is a very personal piece, the Talon Fob, which is removable, which I attach to one of the original fur coat fasteners on the left thigh. When I was about ten, my father shot a great horned owl when it was after our chickens. He made sure to show me its body, so I could feel the softness of the feathers, which allow it to fly so silently at night, and the talons, frighteningly strong and sharp. I asked for the feet, and they mummified on a piece of newspaper on the floor of my room. I’ve always had them with me.
I drilled a hole through the bone, had a problem with the feathers tangling around the bit, then wired it to hold a metal attachment and give a base for the fabric. I beaded it with turquoise and something that looks like lapis, but isn’t. As I worked, I had a long moment of self-doubt; hmm, I thought, I think I might be a little different – maybe a little sick in the head. Most people wouldn’t carry a rabbit’s foot anymore, let alone something that might tear the flesh of anyone they happen to graze in the hall.
Then I decided, ego or not, I was going to wear the damn coat because I made it. It is preposterous, and I’m not altogether comfortable with becoming one with the art object as I wear it; I have to be prepared to get stared at, and usually, I’m the one who likes to be the watcher. My husband thought people might throw rocks at me, assuming I was advocating the unnecessary murder of cuddly things, and I thought people might mistake me for some rich bitch who pays people to murder cuddly things. Let me assure everyone that the fur coat was going to be thrown away if I hadn’t claimed it, and the rest of it, except for the rocks, is recycled. And I doubt rich bitches are so much into owl claws.
But at least it’s finally finished. I doubt that I can top this coat. Maybe I’ll have to switch art forms again. I’ve been getting an idea for a chain saw sculpture….