If you meet anyone who can say or spell "shleptichka" (shlep-teech'-ke) you are probably talking to an old theatrical set painter like me. Shleptichka is a method of painting with a feather duster once used extensively in the theatre. It gave the stage flats a rich textured look, and had the advantage of giving a flat a new appearance just with a change of the stage lighting.

Besides using shleptichka to paint theatre sets, it might be of interest to interior decorators. Try an accent wall in a room. Most importantly, notice the effects of different lighting on the wall. Bright daylight, dusk, or lamplight can each give the room a unique mood.

Painting with a feather duster was a great idea back when everyone used them. The feathers wore out quickly, so one stage set might require several dusters to complete the paint job. Old feather dusters were eagerly scavenged from alley trash cans and stored in the theatre shops with the paint brushes. But today plastic and electricity have greatly reduced the use of natural feathers as cleaning tools. "Shleptichka" has been relegated to the theatre history texts. The dusters made of large natural feathers have become expensive items.

But feathers still grow on geese, turkeys, peacocks, and other fowl. With a little creativity such large feathers could be taped or tied to a short piece of 1/2" dowelling. Skip the expensive "duster" stage. Use unwanted feathers and create a serious feather painting tool. When the feathers wear out, just replace them with new feathers in the dowel handle.

Things You Will Need

Making a painting tool of feathers

A short length of 1/2" dowel for the handle is important because you want to spin it in your hand as you paint. You also want the feathers to fan out in a circle. Traditional dusters have the feathers glued inside a cup on the end of the handle. This is great for dusting, but it will wear out the feathers faster when painting. A painting tool should have the feathers mounted on the outside at a 45 degree angle so they fan out better and can be removed easily when replaced.

Let me suggest drilling a hole in the end of the dowel for a screw. Make a small cone of paper and tape with about a 45 degree angle to the side. Put a straw down the middle of the cone for a screw hole, and a bit of wet tissue around the straw in the point of the cone. Then fill the paper cone with Rock Hard Putty and let it dry to make a solid cone around the straw. Remove the wet tissue and cut off the excess straw. The screw will hold this blunt point of the cone to the end of the dowel.

Before attaching the cone to the dowel, place the quills of a few small feathers in the hole so the head of the tightened screw will hold the feathers on the end of the tool. With the cone now attached to the dowel, you can tape large feathers around the side of the cone until it has the full appearance of a feather duster. Your tool is ready to use. Have a supply of extra feathers, for sooner or later they will wear out.

Step 1

How is Shleptichka done?

Mask everything you want protected from the paint with paper or plastic. Shleptichka is a splashy method of painting. Use at least 3 colors, or shades of your chosen color. Roll on the darkest shade as a complete coverage base coat. After it's dry, spoon a bit of the next lighter color on a makeshift palette. Flop the feathers around in the paint. You may want to remove excess paint from the feathers and check appearance by painting a test surface first.

While spinning the handle in your hand to make the feathers fan out, blot the tool on the surface to be painted. Move the tool around quickly as you blot. You are not trying to cover the entire surface. Let the base color show through in about 50% of the wall. When this second color is done, clean the tool if the feathers are still usable. Otherwise, throw the feathers away and replace them.

Start painting with the 3rd shade or color. Again you will let the previous colors show through, so this lighter color will only cover about 1/3 to 1/2 of the surface area. When finished clean as before. If you are using a 4th color, follow the same procedure. This last color will only cover about 1/4 to 1/2 of the surface. You are the final judge of the appearance you want to achieve.


Tips & Warnings