By Nick Pernokas
Where does art come from? That is a question that has been debated for centuries. One thing for sure is that it’s persistent and it will eventually surface. For Sacramento native Jenn Hall, it could have been foreshadowed by the beautiful artwork and jewelry that her grandparents collected from the Native American reservations near their Tucson home. It could have been predicted by Jenn’s burning desire to paint as a child. But life got in the way, and her art lay simmering beneath the surface. Eventually, Jenn ended up in San Francisco. She soaked up the eclectic local art scene that channeled the Sixties and Seventies. In 2006, Jenn had a good job, but she still felt that something was missing. The work just didn’t provide the creative outlet that she longed for. While out shopping on Haight Street one day, Jenn discovered a pair of feathered earrings. She was infatuated with them, but she decided that she could make a similar pair that would be more to her liking. The project went well, and Jenn enjoyed the process.
“I like working with natural elements, like working with natural feathers, and then adding bits of leather,” says Jenn.
Friends saw the earrings and asked her to make some for them. The ball began to roll. San Francisco was a very creative area, and although feathers and leather weren’t new there, Jenn had her own style, which went over well.
“I’ve always been a creative person. Leather kind of became my canvas.”
Jenn knew that she needed a name for her business. Nothing seemed to fit her work which was a part of her personality.
“I wanted something that represented myself and my work.”
Jenn had always loved leopard print and even had her upper arm tattooed with it. She considered the leopard to be an absolutely beautiful animal, and its whimsical contrast with the beautiful feathered earrings that she was creating seemed to speak to her. The business’s name became “The Feathered Leopard”.
“It piques people’s interest to this day. I get called ‘Feathered Leopard’ or ‘Feathered Leopard Jenn.’ It’s funny to me. I suppose it is just a persona.”
Jenn had dabbled in taxidermy, which gave her a perspective into the world of fur and skins. Now, combined with her love of leather as a medium, she began to create clothes, fur hats and accessories, all with her unique edginess. An 1898 hand-driven Singer sewing machine supplemented Jenn’s hand sewing. She enjoyed looking at product, figuring out how to make it and then adding her own artistic slant to it.
“I always had a fascination with the way things were made.”
Jenn began doing trade shows and selling her work to shops. Fringed handbags with braided straps became another project that she enjoyed. Jenn didn’t know where she was going with her craft, but she knew that it felt right.
“There are so many options, so many ways to go in the leather world.”
Jenn moved back to Sacramento and opened a shop that offered Sixties retro furniture and macramé, along with her leather work. A studio in the back gave Jenn a place to create her leather items. Unfortunately, the shop became a casualty of the economic downturn caused by the COVID outbreak. Jenn moved her leather shop into her home. She dropped the items that she had used to fill up her store and concentrated on what she could build. Eventually, Jenn focused on the earrings.
“I try to hone in on a couple of things and make them the best that I possibly can.”
Jenn discovered the world of turquoise and began integrating it into her leather work. Her turquoise inlaid earrings have become a very popular product. She enjoys finding the perfect pieces for her project from individual dealers.
Turquoise is categorized according to the size or weight of the piece, which is measured in carats, and the name of the area it was mined in. Each area has its own unique type of turquoise, which can range in color from blue to green with varying amounts of matrix for contrast. Jenn frequently uses Royston stones from Nevada and Kingman stones from Arizona.
She keeps a variety of stones stashed away, so there’s always a perfect stone for the project she is working on. The shape, size and tone of the stones have to be aesthetically pleasing. The stone inspires Jenn for the earring she will eventually build around it. Leather glue on the back and the molding of the leather on the top surface of the earring hold the stone securely in place. Jenn finishes the earring off with a high-quality sterling silver ear wire.
A few years ago, Jenn started building her turquoise inlaid earrings with fringe. When she posted them on Instagram, she was overwhelmed with orders. Jenn discovered a market in Texas and in the Midwest that she hadn’t realized was there. She attributes this to some of the retro-rodeo fashion culture that seems to be very popular now.
“I’ve always enjoyed old things and things that have lasted through the years. I feel like the styles were so much better. I feel like everything new is gray.”
Jenn continues to apply her organic style to belt buckles, belts and cell phone cases. Her earrings, which have been featured in Cowboys and Indians Magazine, start at about $130. Usually customers choose from her inventory, although Jenn will do some custom orders. Recently, she did a large custom order for a wedding.
Although Jenn will be the first to admit that she is pretty far away from living a “Hippie” lifestyle, her styles do seem to pay homage to the pop styles of the Sixties and Seventies. Then again, perhaps there is a much simpler reason for comparisons to one of America’s most artistically creative periods.
“This is me and these are the things I enjoy.”
If you would like to enjoy some of Jenn’s work, check her out at: thefeatheredleopard.com, etsy.com/shop/thefeatheredleopard, facebook.com/thefeatheredleopard, pinterest.com/thefeatheredleopard, or on Instagram @thefeatheredleopard. Jenn can be contacted directly at email@example.com .