Native American tradition has it that gifting a feather to someone is a great honor and the gift should be cherished and displayed with respect.
These traditions and beliefs are the only part of what makes the work of Ron Navroski, Feathers from above, special.
"i'm Polish,'" he clarified in a recent interview, then noted that his inspiration to paint on feathers came from a native american and that his beliefs are no less valid.
He said when he first started painting, like most artist, it was on canvas. He also enjoyed painting scenery on eggs, but about five years ago, he met an elderly women who purchased a painted feather at a Pow Wow up north. She told Ron that the artist used a "'dabbing'" method. He was hooked.
"All I could remember her saying was "dabbed" and "feathers," Ron recalled. He mentioned that working with feathers wasn't the easiest feat he'd ever attempted. Feathers have a tendency to break and according to Ron, circles are practically impossible but it's a challenge he's willing to take.
"Feathers are so light," he said. "A feather can split. There are no mistakes. You cant repaint it like a canvas.
There is no changing once you've made the stroke.'
Ron said further that feathers aren't the easiest medium to obtain - it's not like birds are rushing out to drop feathers for his work. And certain feathers, like those belonging to owls and eagles are protected so it's illegal for anyone except Native Americans to use them.
" I couldn't paint for a couple of months for no access," he said
But a friend introduced him to Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park, in Scotland Neck, N.C. Sylvan Heights has thousands of exotic birds - problem solved
"all the feathers are legal" he said, " and they're a nonprofit. I take their feathers, paint them and sell them at the gift shop. They've worked very well with me for a couple of years."
From there, Ron's work took off, so to speak.
Ron's first art show was in Ashland, Va. at the Art Walk for Cancer. This was before the Sylvan Heights partnership.
" I only had about 10 feathers" Ron noted. He said he gave money for the cancer fund. The second year coordinators asked hi if he would help out. He was introduced to the art director at MCV hospital and was invited to do a show there.
" I had work on display and whatever was bought, a portion went back to the hospital. This is just a hobby, but maybe in five to seven years I can do it as part time retirement income."
Ron said he never tires of painting feathers and many are gilded with spirit animals. Sometimes people make request, like dogs and cats, sometimes angles.
"some people do it when people pass away," he said. "Anyone can make a request. It may take 20 feathers to do it - I have a problem with saying 'no' then saying 'oops!'"
He noted that most people acknowledge their belief that feathers have a spiritual significance whether they are native american or not.
"And the older i get the more i like to have meaning behind what i do," he said.
as far as passing on his legacy, Ron commented that he has no problem wit teaching an interested party his methods but the best he can do is have them come and watch.
" I can't tell you if you're doing it right or wrong," he said "i'm using a method but I don't know if it is right or wrong. I have never actually seen the technique."
Ron's work comes matted and framed for display. He said it is important for a feather gift to be displayed prominently and he does what he can to make sure the recipient of one of his pieces receives quality. Locally, his work can be found at Wildwood Nursery and Garden Center on Lizard Creek Road.
For more information and to see other examples of Ron's work visit his Facebook page or his website at feathersfromabove.net or contact him at email@example.com. You can also see his work on facebook.