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Surprising Sculptures Made From Fallen Feathers

Bess Lovejoy
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012 / Tessa Angus
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Kate MccGwire is a British sculptor with an unusual medium: feathers. Her surreal, undulating works often take the form of installations—the feathers spilling out of a drain, a stove, a crypt wall—or stand-alone sculptures in which antique bell jars, cabinets, or trunks contain otherworldly shapes.

MccGwire developed her obsession with feathers after moving to a studio barge on the Thames in 2006, as she explains in a video from Crane.tv recently spotlighted by Boing Boing. The barge was near a large shed full of feral pigeons, whose feathers she would spot on her way to work. "I started picking them up and laying them out, collecting them," she remembers. "And after about two weeks I had like 300 feathers." At the time, concerns about bird flu were rife, which made the feathers seem "dangerous as well as beautiful."

When not supplied by her own next-door menagerie, the feathers for her artwork come from a network of racing pigeon societies all over the UK, who send her envelopes full every time the birds molt. Farmers and gamekeepers also send her fallen feathers from birds such as magpies, pheasants, and roosters.

The cultural associations around birds are a big part of what inspires MccGwire. “The dove is the symbol of peace, purity, and fertility," she told ArtNews in 2013, "but it’s exactly the same species as a pigeon—which everyone regards as being dirty, foul, a pest.”

The same duality is present in her own work, which she frequently shares on her Instagram account. “I want to seduce by what I do—but revolt in equal measure. It’s really important to me that you’ve got that rejection of things you think you know for sure.”

You can see some pictures of MccGwire's work, and watch the video from Crane.tv, below.

Evacuate, 2010
Evacuate, 2010 / J Wilde
Convolous, 2015
Convolous, 2015 / JP Bland
Gyre, 2012
Gyre, 2012 / Tessa Angus
Gag, 2009
Gag, 2009 / JP Bland
Writhe, 2010
Writhe, 2010 / Tessa Angus
Quell, 2011
Quell, 2011 / Tessa Angus
Taunt, 2012
Taunt, 2012 / Tessa Angus
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