Thisweek’s Londoner is Tessa Metcalfe, a long term city girl who works as a taxidermist come jewellery designer with some pretty bloody cool effects….
Tessa tell us where do you live in the big smoke…
I’m a born ‘n’ bred Hackney girl. I left for a bit once but I missed it. As a kid, I guess I resented how grey and battered the city is. I read a lot of old fairy tales and I really wanted to have something magical happen to me. But its all a part of London’s charm. It’s unforgiving and dirty and I gradually learnt to respect that.
Your jewellery designs are pretty cool (we NEED that claw ring), how did you get into the trade?
I’m self taught, I got into it accidentally after I made the Pigeon Hat from some some authentic London roadkill I found. It kinda struck a cord with me. I think pigeons are the perfect mascot for this place. They represent everything I love about it. They get called vermin but they are so underestimated, I’ve always found them fascinating, the shades of green and purple in their coats, the beat up ones, the fat ones, they have such character. London’s missionary gangstas. Every piece I create is from the casts of this birds feet. I make miniature stone set rings for the birds and I hand gold plate their nails giving them human like traits. I explore the birds feral lust for jewels.
You obviously know a thing or two about jewellery, who are your favourite designers?
Honestly, I look to other places for my inspiration. There are some great designers, good friends of mine, but I believe to keep work innovative you gotta look further a field. I love the world of the outsider artist Henry Darger, his story is insane. He created characters in his mind and lived through their adventures in his mind. His imagination was so wild he didn’t even want share it, his drawings were only discovered under his bed once he had died. I love the fantasy in the mind, self delusion. As a child I remember reading these dark fairy tales in books at my Grans house, they had no morals. If you haven’t read The Little Mermaid, the Hans Christian Anderson version, just do it. That warped me as a child for sure. I also love the work of Mollie Mills, she’s a film maker and friend of mine, she has a real talent for capturing a beauty and clarity of youth.
Any secret shops you can recommend in London? Favourite places to buy jewellery?
What can I say? I’m the best in town. But I like pieces with a story, I like cash4gold jewellery, you know its got a good story if its in a pawn shop window. If you want to see real skill, go to the V&A Jewellery exhibition. That is the best craftsmanship around. They don’t make things like they used too, seriously, the work that has into those creations. Its breath taking. I’ll be holding a Pop-Up at the Shoreditch Boxpark at the end of June, follow me on twitter for details.
What would be your perfect day in London?
Every day is different. That’s the beauty of it. You can have the best laid plans then get stuck in traffic on the 38 and end up spending the afternoon listening to the domestic going on in the seat behind you. You really cant beat a top-floor bus soap opera. The Hunterian Museum is a favourite, they have the oldest collections of anatomical, pathological and zoological specimens in the UK. And there is a Human Slice upstairs at the Welcome Collection on Euston Road, oh that it fascinating. Its one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Get Stuffed on Essex Road, the infamous taxidermy shop that never opens, I’ve loved it since I was a child. If you remember the polar bear that was in the window for years? They’d put the most pathetic loop of tinsel round his neck at Christmas, it was rumored that Alexander McQueen bought it, dunno where that’d be now, but I’ll always have a good look in the window, makes me feel like a kid again. Then probs take my dog for a walk round Abney Park cemetery, maybe I am a little morbid? No, I like the abandoned history of an inner city cemetery sat on prime real estate just standing its ground.
We agree Get Stuffed on Essex Road rocks, it’s like walking around the zoo by looking in one window. Although we’ve heard/seen some dodgy stuff cruising through in that cemetery….a story for another time. If you want to check out Tessa’s designs hit up her website and facebook page.