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Not just for the birds Tessa Metcalfe creates jewellery from pigeons’ feet

Finding beauty in the gutter

Elina Lukas talks to designer Tessa Metcalfe, who casts jewellery from pigeons’ feet, changing the perceptions people have of the birds
photographed by the author

Working in the fashion industry, you become immune to all the weirdness and peculiarity it has to offer. While there are plenty of amateurs seeking attention at all costs, once in a while you can stumble upon something special, something very unique.

Tessa Metcalfe is an East London-born, self-taught jeweller. Her objects of creativity have a strong concept following through all her designs.

Metcalfe’s jewellery is cast from nothing other than pigeon feet. She gives this forsaken bird a regal personality by gold plating its nails and giving it miniature rings to wear on its claws. Her fascination with birds started in early childhood.

TM: I remember seeing a dead pigeon in the gutter and there was petrol floating on the water, it made this rippling green and purple swirls that matched the feathers in the bird’s neck. I remember thinking it was the beautiful thing.

Childhood memories also bring back all the fairy tails Metcalfe used to read. As many other young girls, she desperately wanted to be part of a beautiful story. Although these ambitions had to wait while she was growing up, Metcalfe has now managed to make her childhood fantasies come to life through her amazing jewellery.

TM: My work is about a dream and a feeling, the idea of adding fantasy to the everyday and finding beauty in the gutter … about that childhood innocence and that fantasy before you grow up and get told what’s right and wrong.  

One might argue that pigeons are considered to be dirty city birds, definitely not something to admire. But does this ever make Metcalfe doubt her choice of subject?

TM: I love that I can change the perception of an object. Playing with the connotations that people have for pigeons. The association with grime and disease makes them even more irresistible to me.

Metcalfe has already taken London by storm, recently winning the Professional Jeweller award. With such success behind her belt, what is she thinking of doing next?

TM: I enjoy crossing boundaries within my practice and I love learning new skills. I want to keep every project I do very different and fresh. It’s all about a good idea to start and then just to see where it takes me.

We wish Metcalfe all the best in her ventures and look forward to seeing the pigeon love spread across the globe. •




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Elina Lukas is a corresponent and photographer for Lucire.