REALLY FRESH ART
Brilliant artists who uses unorthodox methods to achieve the unbelievable. Kate MccGwire the British artist who uses feathers to sculpt her work did the following interview with Juxtapoz online magazine explaining her astonishing work.
Katie Zuppann: Your latest work often utilizes bird feathers. Why feathers? What meaning do they hold for you?
Kate MccGwire: I deliberately choose materials that possess a beauty and power when used in abundance and in a context beyond which they can popularly lay claim. The common pigeon is considered a pest, dirty and feral. The dove however, is the symbol of purity, peace and hope. Cherished, they are given their own dovecotes to live in yet they are exactly the same type of bird as the pigeon just with white feathers. Pigeon-fanciers would indeed disagree with the opinion pigeons are “rats with wings”, and that dual perspective adds another ‘layer’ to the feathers meaning.
I find it compelling to work with feathers that connotations are ‘loaded’ and find it fascinating that each bird has its own mythology and presence. The magpie is regarded as the bearer of bad omens (one for sorrow, two for joy etc), the thief and collector of the bird world. Similarly the crow too has certain associations, seen as a symbol of witchcraft particularly when feathers are found vertical, pointing quill down into the ground.
Where do you get your feathers?
I started to pick up molted pigeon feathers in the park around 2007 within a couple of months I had a collection of about 400. I realized quickly their potential for a larger scale piece where I would need thousands.
I contacted pigeon racing clubs and racing enthusiasts throughout the UK, asking them to send me their molted feathers that would normally be discarded as rubbish – now three years later, I have approximately 200 individuals who regularly send me envelopes full of pigeon feathers. I frequently keep them updated with images of my work and have been delighted with the incredible support they have given. This collaborative aspect of collecting to acquire materials has become an integral part of the process of making my work.
Approximately how long does it take you to complete an average sculpture?
This depends hugely on the types of feathers I am using and how I am collecting them. All feathers have to be cleaned and sorted into types and only when I have enough of a particular type can I consider making a piece with them. I started collecting magpie feathers years ago and only have enough this year to make a piece of work using them.
As described in the answer above, the process of collecting pigeon feathers also takes time; added to this, the birds only moult in spring and autumn so I receive a large quantity during those periods. Different feathers behave differently so their method and speed of application can affect timescales as too does the size and nature of the final piece. In short, it is hard to measure with so many variables and it never feels like there is enough time!
Your work, particularly between 2004-2007, utilized many irregular materials like chicken bone and noodles. What draws you to these materials and why did you move towards using feathers so often?
Again, these objects have such an innate identity, a personality and a history that makes working with them so intriguing. My choice of materials is also in response to the world around me, noticing feathers, starting collections and relishing seeing them in such large quantities again heightens their meanings.
Memories of the Future: The Thomas Olbricht Collection
Maison Rouge, Paris
Archaeological Association of Athens, Greece
House of Beasts
Attingham Park, National Trust, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Now & Then
Harris Lindsay, London