Goose Feather Quill


Selected feather to be made into a quill

At the moment my geese are moulting and feathers are strewn all about at the workshop – mostly they are the downy small ones, but there have been some larger wing feathers too.  Artist, painter and printmaker  John Walker (who I met on Facebook)  suggested that I should have a go at drawing with the feathers – making them into quills.

He very kindly gave me instructions how to do this, and showed me some of the drawings he has done with quills.  His work is beautiful and I am in awe of his skill with the quill pen.  Amazingly, he uses squid ink to draw with!

I set about putting some of my goose feathers to good use.

knife 600

I used a sharp knife to cut and trim the nib


I found the nib very scratchy at first, and tried all different ways and angles of holding it.  Eventually I found a spot where it glided over the paper and made rather nice sweeping lines – which made themselves into running dogs.   It needs a very delicate touch, I found the nib tip separated and left two lines, and didn’t hold ink for long.  All these things are about refinement in cutting of the quill in the first place – so back to practice.  There is a way of hardening the tip of the feather before cutting to lengthen the life of the quill, by plunging it into hot sand – so I will do this  next time.


I thought it would be great to work in a natural way as John does, so am thinking about making my own ink.  Looking at Rembrandt’s drawings with his reed pen, he used Bistre, a brown ink popular with the old masters because of its warm, luminous colour qualities.  It was prepared by boiling Beech wood soot to obtain a liquid, transparent brown extract.

rembrandt lion

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *