The kooky jeweller on a mission to find beauty in the gutter
If you ever get the opportunity to chat with Tessa Metcalfe, please take it. And if you don’t love her just a little bit afterwards, check your pulse. Both endearingly kooky and deep thinking, what she says is like what she designs: amusing and challenging at the same time.
The young designer and one of the 2013 winners of the Professional Jeweller Treasure competition is celebrating a whirlwind year.
“I never thought my weird obsession with pigeons would take off but it seems to have connected with people in a way that is so flattering and humbling at the same time. I’m self taught, so winning the approval of industry professionals and then the faith of the public vote was an incredible boost and gave me the confidence to push my designs further.”
Yes it’s all about pigeons; a subject as dear to the heart of most urbanites as roadkill. Yet she has amazingly managed to turn the cities’ number one pest into an enchanting emblem of creativity, with her pigeons’ feet emblems adorning pendants, earrings and more as they glitter in gold and clutch stones and pearls or wear their own rings.
Hang on – pigeons don’t wear jewellery. “Oh but they do!” she says. “They have the same feral lust for jewels that we do. Some wear ruby rings and gold-plate their nails and some like to collect the biggest crystals that they can get their claws on. They may live in the gutter but their feet are made of gold.”
Get it? She’s fun. Actually, fun doesn’t even begin to cover it. A Google image search will show you Tessa dressed as a mermaid or as Botticelli’s Venus. Meet her in the flesh and she might just be wearing something even more special, her pigeon hat. “The poor little bird that so kindly donated his feet to my collection, I made him into a hat, just for special occasions, mind.”
And this now famous pigeon is not alone. “In my house I have two freezers. One for food, and one for the roadkill and nature’s little presents that I taxidermy and make into things to wear.”
And what roadkill treasures are in there right now, Tessa? “Currently I have a baby seagull that my friend Antonia found. He’s adorable – think fluffy and grey with black polka dots. A goldcrest is chilling in there too; that’s Britain’s smallest bird. It flew into my dad’s neighbour’s window, which was shut at the time.”
But back to jewellery. “My jewellery is all about reliving your childhood. Finding beauty in the gutter and escapism. I make objects that make you smile.” She certainly does that.
Tessa Metcalfe was selected as a NexGem in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2013 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read the digital edition of the Hot 100 book in full online, click here.