Londoner jewellery designer, Tessa Metcalfe, is all about finding beauty in the gutter. Extremely talented in bringing dreams and fairy tales to life in the form of mostly rings, she has always been fascinated with pigeons, traditional craftsmanship, and over ornate aesthetic, all three of which she combines into precious tiny works of art.
DRECK: How and why did you start designing jewelry? Was jewelry something that always fascinated you, or how did this come about?
Tessa: It was by accident really, I had this obsession with pigeons since I was a kid, I was fascinated by their bad reputation, and I really wanted to play with that. I found a dead pigeon, learnt to taxidermy on youtube and made it into a hat. Then I had these feet left over, and I thought they’d look good in gold. It all started from there.
DRECK: You have really bold, vivid aesthetics. What shapes your style? Where do you draw inspiration from?
Tessa: I’m really inspired by antique jewellery, I love the traditional craftsmanship and the over over ornate aesthetic. You can see it in my pieces; I think this is what makes them look timeless, some of them, from a glance, really look quite old. It’s only when you take that second look and notice the gnarly bird claws you realise it’s quite subversive. I like that; I like making people look twice.
DRECK: Your rings are the epitome of beauty. But how do you define beauty? What do you feel is beautiful in a person? Or in a thing?
Tessa: Beauty is such a strange concept; it’s one that I struggle with, that’s why I like to question it. Sure gold and jewels are beautiful, but is a roadkill pigeon in the gutter not too? The metallic greens and purples of the feather in its neck, the patterns in its lifeless wings, the feeling of sadness at being confronted with the concept of death unexpectedly when you’re popping to the shop for milk, and then that grounding feeling it gives you when you remember that everything is going to die and that thing you’re worrying about doesn’t really matter at all. That is what is really beautiful to me. It is about how you look at things, what you value, and why. This is what I like to play with.
DRECK: You clearly adore pigeons. Why is that?
Tessa: Why are pigeons gross and other birds are so delightful? That’s what struck me as a child, I was brought up in London, and there wasn’t much wildlife, but there were pigeons, and I liked them. One day an adult told me pigeons were vermin and disgusting, I didn’t understand why. It didn’t seem fair, but then it made them even better.
DRECK: Who do you think is the perfect person to wear your rings? Do you have personal favorites?
Tessa: My jewellery is for anyone that connects with it, I don’t care if you’re hot, or famous, young or old, cool or anything else. My work is about appreciating the unappreciated. It is for anyone that gets it. I have favourite pieces sometimes, but the thing with bespoke jewellery is that you work so hard to create it, and then you give it away. It’s a strange sadness, I like to keep them a little while, sometimes I take them for a walk. But I’m happy to let them go, they have their own lives to live. It’s cathartic, and I want to be able to let go.
DRECK: What are you working on at the moment?
Tessa: There are a few pieces I’ve been dreaming up recently, and I’ve just started to work on them. They bring together my favourite ideas. The ridiculousness of the luxury of fine jewellery, the hunt for the flawless stone, I love the perceived value of a useless object. Working with materials so heavy in history and subliminal context is like using magical paint. Jewellery is a visual language that everyone can understand, no one needs it, so if I’m going to make it, it’s going to be fun.