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Fowl flair: Feather artist chirps about Western accessory biz

Haley Fitzgerald loves birds, from their meat to their songs to their nests to their feathers. Pheasants, turkeys, chukars, grouse — you name them. For that reason, she’s a bird hunter. Always has been.

Store-bought fowl meat never sat right with the Virginia native who’s lived in Jackson for the last decade. But neither did years of throwing away the pretty feathers of her prey. She contemplated how she could make use of the feathers she’d collect, until a business concept dawned on her: Spruced Plume.

In 2016 Fitzgerald launched a Kentucky Derby-inspired Western accessory company with ready inventory of feathers she’d hunted. Hatbands, bowties, hat plumes and pocket squares are among Spruced Plume’s wide array of feathered accoutrements.

“I don’t hunt for feathers, I hunt for food,” Fitzgerald said. “My first priority is hunting to eat — the feathers are a byproduct of wanting to live as sustainability as possible.”

In hunting not only for fowl, but for big game too — like elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer and antelope — Fitzgerald incorporates hides into her accessories as well. Committed to whole animal use, Fitzgerald never purchases feathers, working only with what her hunting has yielded, or feathers gathered from local farms. Shadow of the Winds, a small farmstead in Daniel that’s represented at the Slow Food in the Tetons People’s Market, is one feather source. Another is her neighbor’s ranch, which houses peacocks.

Through her seven years of developing Spruced Plume, small touches have evolved, like swapping pins for magnets to secure her pieces on hats. Prices range from $75 to $125, because the entrepreneur is committed to keeping her products “reasonably priced,” to ensure not just the “higher-end market” can buy her items. In 2022 she sold over 400 accessories to folks across Jackson Hole, the United States and abroad. Spruced Plume is a 7-year-old Western accessory brand that uses hunted feathers from pheasants, turkeys, chukars, grouse and other fowl.

“For whatever reason, a lot of French people contact me,” she said with a giggle, “but really I have customers from all over.”

Fitzgerald mostly runs her business on Etsy and Instagram, but starting March 22 Spruced Plume will have its own retail website. Shoppers who sign up for the company’s e-newsletter before the website goes live in a few weeks will receive 10% off. Jacksonites are also offered free, local pickup to avoid shipping costs.

“Instagram is tricky because it’s a lot of back-and-forth with individuals,” she said. “If I were to put things up for sale through a story, I’ll get a bunch of messages.”

Etsy is imperfect for sellers as well, as it has increased its transaction fee to 6.5%, plus 20 cents, for every sale. Owning her own website will likely prove far more profitable. And while Fitzgerald has sold her wares at the People’s Market on occasion, she’s committed to being “more forward-facing” this year.

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