As Cosplay Took Off, So Did Her Career

When it comes to Sarah Lambert’s wearable wings, birds of a featherdon’t necessarily flock together. “Phoenix Out of the Ashes,” for example, is a piece that combines ring-neck pheasant, rooster, turkey, goose, and peacock feathers in a brilliant spray of sizes, shapes, textures, and colors. “I love imagining ideas and bringing them to life,” she says. “Any color combination. Any type of feather.” (She wholesales real feathers from a company called Zucker.)

Sarah Lambert couldn’t settle for store-bought wings.
Portrait by Clark Hodgin

Her first pair of wings wasn’t quite as elaborate. The Murphy, NC, native moved to Asheville with her husband after high school, and in 2006 was working in The Costume Shoppe, then on Haywood Street downtown.

“When we got our Halloween stock in, I thought the pre-packaged feather wings were pretty awful,” she remembers. “I looked online to see if anyone was making better alternatives and didn’t find anything. We sold feathers at the shop, so I thought maybe I could make something.” (She had only recently learned to sew, though she says she has “always been an artist” who drew, painted, and sculpted.)

Photo by Chad Harnish

Using materials at the store, she combined dark-turquoise-dyed duck feathers, black-dyed duck feathers, and peacock feathers. “I used the duck feathers because they had both left- and right-wing feathers,” she explains. “I really made that first pair just to see if I could.”

She showed them to friend and eventual mentor Amy Mozingo, who had a sewing studio in the back of the store; Mozingo’s response was: “Make more!” Owner Susan Sertain also gave her a vote of confidence, displaying Lambert’s wings at the store and inviting her to share Costume Shoppe vendor space at DragonCon in Atlanta — the largest fantasy convention in the industry. “It’s kind of crazy that it was my first convention because it’s so huge,” Lambert says. “My wings sold out.” Besides cosplay fans, her clients have included fashion-show models and imaginative brides.

Photo by Chad Harnish

Then she discovered international FaerieCon in Baltimore, and in 2014, determined to allow her dream to take full flight, she left her day job at Hancock Fabrics to focus full time on her business, Uber Kio, named to honor a late dear friend. She’s been on Etsy for ten years but finds most of her fans and buyers traveling to conventions and festivals. “Faerie festivals are definitely my jam,” says Lambert.

A small pair of wings might take her an hour or two to complete, medium pairs about five hours, and large pairs around eight — but she can spend 40 hours laboring over an extra-large pair. Lambert has tweaked her framing method and material over time and expanded her feather repertoire, though she does have her favorites.

These wings don’t stay in one place long. They can often be seen at cosplay conventions across the country.
Photo by Clark Hodgin

“I love working with pheasant feathers. The colors vary a lot more than you would think, and their tail feathers have such unique patterns.” 

She also has a soft spot for fluffy ostrich feathers. “When I get them in I want to bury my face in them, I love them so much.” Her most faithful admirers include those who buy a new pair of wings from her every year. “Many of them tell me they have a wall in their homes covered with them … the wings are their art collection.”

Sarah Lambert, Hendersonville. Lambert’s wings are sold at Honeypot Vintage (86 North Lexington Ave., Asheville) and on Etsy(Uber Kio). For more information, e-mail uberkio@gmail.com.

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