After viewing the works of London-based artist Kate MccGwire, it is quite possible for one to realize that “all” does not have to have a mere purpose. Although things may seem to appear as contextually one-dimensional or rather random at the very first glance, this does not reflect the actual (and subtly united) case. Perhaps, the author originally conceived all these beforehand. As is the case with Kate MccGwire; she has somehow conceived to introduce her viewers in a kind of prostration, using feathers of various birds to create her sculptures.


Feathers in the Kate’s work have a rather sinister appearance that prevailed in some tangles and sea feathers, and then something more like the mythological snakes in the flasks. It seems just about time that this strange and inanimate creatures jump out of their location and absorb its audience. But despite this gloomy atmosphere surrounding the sculptures, there comes this irresistible urge to touch, feel and internalize them. The eventual ending is to understand how feather masterpieces are so unique and one of their kind.

How did you come up with the idea of creating sculptures from feathers?
My attraction to feathers was a direct result of moving to my studio on a Dutch barge on the River Thames in 2005. I was moored next to a dilapidated old shed that had been colonized by feral pigeons and when walking to the studio everyday I would find a scattering of discarded feathers on the ground. It didn’t take long before I had hundreds, I began playing with them, layering, experimenting and I realized then that they were really very beautiful.


Do you have a special routine for your creation process?
If I’m not thinking about the next piece of work then I’m listening to something calming like choral music. The process of making is incredibly meditative and I enjoy the quietness of making a piece of work that can take months to create.

Do you use the feathers of dead birds, or are they synthetic?
The feathers are all real and none are dyed or colored in any way. They are sent to me by a variety of sources, and I think of them as being a by-product of an existing process, a form of recycling. The pigeons’ feathers are the most straightforward as they are captive birds and their feathers are sent to me by a network of hundreds of racing pigeon enthusiasts around the country. It has taken quite a few years to establish an on-going relationship, whereby I write to them explaining and showing them what I am planning to make. Then, when their birds moult (which they do twice a year), they send me these beautiful feathers through the post (which would otherwise be thrown away). I have kept every letter and envelope in which the feathers are sent to me, and I hope eventually to make them into an installation.


How long does it take to create one piece?
In a way it is a sort of endless process, a repetitious cycle of collection and creation. While the making can take anywhere between a few weeks and a few months the collection can take years. I always work on paper first to create the basic form through experimentation. Charcoal enables me to have free rein of shape and scale in a way that is restricted by my access to materials. On paper I can sketch an idea and save it for later if necessary. My final works are governed by the materials I have in the studio.

Your works are dominated by the black color palette. It this a conscious decision?
My color palette comes solely from my materials so my black pieces are always either crow or jackdaw feathers. I also use pigeon, magpie and mallard regularly as they are plentiful in the UK. By utilizing the waste product from these common British birds the aim is to reveal the miraculous in the everyday.

Kate MccGwire sculpture

Kate MccGwire sculpture

You have works where you used feathers and chicken bones. Have you ever used likely unusual materials such as wool or hair?
Nature is inextricably linked to my practice so I enjoy using materials from the natural world. In the past I have used human hair but I am enjoying primarily using feathers for now. I certainly intend to revisit and experiment with other natural materials in the future.

Writhe, Wrest, Dwell, Stifle… How do you name your works?
I try to choose titles which are bodily, that have some sort of visceral, immediate feeling about them. A reference to the notion of the uncanny, both relating to the organic body and yet alien and strange. The pieces in the cabinets for instance are trapped, they have no head to them, They are uncomfortable and beautiful at the same time, we recognize creases and crevices and they refer back to ourselves but they are otherworldly. I’m constantly trying to construct this fine line between attractive and vaguely disquieting. The name of the piece is part of this physicality.

Words / Daria Inskaya

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *