Rebecca Jewell spent a year in New Guinea in 1982 and became inspired by feather artifacts and birds. She saw how important they were to the people there and was amazed by the beautiful feather headdresses people made. She went on to study anthropology at Cambridge University in 1985 and then gained a PhD from London’s Royal College of Art in Natural History Illustration. During that time she would work mainly in watercolor, drawing bird skins at the National History Museum and ethnographic artifacts made out of feathers at the British Museum.
All of these experiences came to influence the body of work she began to create using “ethically sourced” feathers to print on. Her work is based on careful observational drawing as a way of seeing, recording, investigating and analyzing. Through a process involving a photo-plate, ink, an etching press and feathers, Jewell creates beautiful and delicate works on feathers depicting birds. Of the pieces she says: “Over the past years I have drawn and painted feathers and birds, and explored how they have been used to enhance and decorate humans. I am also aware of the plight and precarious status of many species, which I wanted to represent in the delicacy of the image on the feather.”
An artist in residence at the British Museum, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Jewell creates work that explores the shared histories between people that create certain artifacts, the explorers, anthropologists and travelers who obtain them, and the museums that house them.