I met Andie Cohen-Healy a few months ago at a craft show. Her work stood out from the crowd in a very major way– at The Feathered Head booth, there were gorgeous vintage hats with delicate lace, feathers, and crystals all over them. I instantly was whisked away to precious memories of my own glamorous grandmother and her collection of hats. Andie’s work is beautiful. The Feathered Head is a gorgeous homage to history, and her handing and reworking of the pieces look to the future with a loving, creative eye.
Please introduce yourself. who are you? where did you grow up? where do you live?
I am Andie Cohen-Healy and I am a former television executive turned Feather Artisan (probably the only one on earth who can claim that career path). The story of my transition from the corporate world to the creative sphere is kind of crazy with its twists and turns but in many ways it has been quite organic! I grew up in suburban New Jersey, went to college in Chicago, lived in London for a short time and then in New York City for a long time. As a former Director of Satellite Operations at MTV Networks, I gave up everything I had known in NYC and moved to Los Angeles in 2006 for the man I loved. Upon purchase of our 1904 house, I freaked out when we were gifted 2 baby chicks from sellers (I’m from NYC…what the ^&*+% do I know about chickens?). But I fell madly in love with them, and the flock soon grew to 5. Got engaged. Planned wedding but felt too smart and old to wear poufy standard bridal veil, which did not reflect my personality or self-assurance I’d gained over the years. Also wanted to incorporate beloved chickens into my Berkshire, MA wedding the same way people include their dogs or cats (without leaving people laughing hysterically). Solution? Make alternative bridal headpiece out of my hens’ gorgeous (naturally molted) feathers. People went crazy over the plumed fascinator and began requesting similar ones. Recognizing current backyard chicken craze, feather-mania and headpiece resurgence, timing was perfect. Though at the time still working my day job in the satellite field (though not at MTV anymore), under the watchful eye of my bossy, spoiled chickens, “The Feathered Head” was hatched as a full e-commerce site (www.TheFeatheredHead.com), featuring a variety of unique feathered headpieces. Sales increased steadily and one particular feathered hat was picked up by The Today Show and worn on the Kathie Lee & Hoda segment during the Royal Wedding.
what do you make or do?
Inspired by past images of elegance when women of style dressed for dining, travel and parties, I craft one-of-a-kind feathered headpieces and accessories for cocktail & black tie parties, weddings and special occasions. By combining soft, luminous feathers with unexpected embellishments such as heirloom jewelry, vintage millinery, textural flowers, quills, Swarovski crystals, natural fibers and mixed media, I attempt to create a piece that is both elegant and whimsical. In addition to the selection of plumed fascinators, headbands, combs, clips and veils, and accessories including feathered purses, earrings and boas, I re-feather and restore vintage hats to enhance my collection.
where can we find your creations?
how long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?
A year and a half ago I made the decision to quit my day job in the satellite field and devote myself to The Feathered Head full time. I had several friends who had passed away way too young and what kept going through my head was “Life is Short”. I was unhappy and unfulfilled in my regular job and even though it had the advantage of a regular paycheck, I just wanted to do something that made me feel good. I wanted to put something beautiful and positive out into the world.
when you’re not making things, what do you do?
I play Taiko drums (gigantic, loud, fabulous Japanese drums). My troupe, Makoto Taiko, and I toured Japan last year playing several collaborative concerts and we just finished playing our annual concert here in Los Angeles.
I also tend to our flock of 9 (yes, 9!) chickens…Maryann, Lucy, Quark, Feta, Electra, Twiggy, LuLu, Charo and Nugget. That’s almost a full time job in itself! Their molting season is great for my feather inventory!
is creativity a luxury or a necessity for you? tell us more about why it’s a necessity or a luxury or even both for you.
I think it used to be a luxury when I was in a dry, corporate job but little by little it started becoming essential to my sanity. The funny thing I have found about creativity is that, the more you allow yourself to do it, the more your soul requires it to feel balanced. So yes, now I would say that it is a necessity.
what obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life? did someone tell you artists never make money or did you struggle to learn the skills you use to create?
Though always creative as a child, I somehow ended up being funneled into very dry or technical jobs. Always close to the creatives, but never quite in their circle. I was recruited out of college to work at Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago, but it was as a media buyer/planner (dry). Then I worked in television but it was in satellite operations (dry). Even at MTV, the coolest of the cool, I was in a technical area. So my obstacles have been more about finding a way to express myself creatively in the midst of non-creative jobs. But fueled by “Life is Short”, that was no longer good enough….I wanted to be doing something that was actually creative, not just “close to it”.
did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
My family has always encouraged me to be creative. From the time I was in grade school making dioramas for class projects, teachers have always commented on the detail in work and the sense of whimsy. I think I took that support for granted. When I decided to take the leap and quit my day job, there was a collective cheer from husband, family and friends because they knew how unhappy I had been.
where do you find inspiration?
Trees inspire me because they seem extremely content living the way they do. My feather studio inspires me because it’s filled with light and potential. There are times that I just stand there looking at all my feathers, admiring how they are constructed, the intense beauty in their detail.
what’s on the horizon for you and what you do?
I hope to continue doing what I’m doing and grow! I want to run my business more efficiently and smarter. Having been designated a “Top 10 Favorite” by the LA Fashion District I want to be able to live up to that.
if money wasn’t an issue how would your life change with regards to your art?
I would not have to ponder the “Am I a business woman or am I an artist” question every damn day!
what would be your perfect day off?
The ability to take a nap without feather designs facing through my head!
what inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
Do something! Anything towards your art. It doesn’t have to be perfect but just take one step forward. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and then use those mistakes as data.
who are the makers that inspire you?
Andie Cohen-Healy, of The Feathered Head