Shark teeth and pheasant feathers in work by a UK artist
50-million-year-old shark teeth and thousands of turkey, pheasant and coque feathers are just a few of the materials comprising the work of UK artist Louise Greenfield. "I've always been into making and designing things. Even when I was a little girl I was creating little outfits and packaging boxes. I loved the construction, pattern and color elements equally and was occupied for hours as a child," laughs Greenfied in her North London studio. "I'd drive my maths teachers crazy day-dreaming about things I could make!"
This love affair with construction and design led London-born Greenfield to complete a 1st Class BA (Hons.) in Applied Art before being offered a chance to work with the jewelry team at Vivienne Westwood. "I'd always admired the incredible theatrical, flamboyant nature of her work," says Greenfield. During her time there she felt fortunate to work with Wendy Ramshaw, CBE, the queen of British jewelry design. Inspired by what she calls the "execution and finish on her work which is always so incredibly precise and intricate," Greenfield soaked up everything she could learn about materials—"be it precious metals, jewels, plastics, leather and fabrics"—and used the results to create large-scale installations as well as jewelry and art.
In 2010, Greenfield launched her own range, Targets—intricate and highly detailed wall art utilizing hundreds of pheasant, coque, turkey feathers—at London's Origin and 100% Design festivals. The positive feedback led to global editorial coverage and the opportunity to collaborate with some of the UK's top interior designers.
The following year, while visiting New York, Greenfield stumbled upon a 50-million-year-old shark's tooth, an encounter that eventually led to her latest animal-inspired collection, Dancing Teeth. "I found the my first tooth at an amazing shop called Evolution, an artist's treasure trove full of preserved butterflies, beetles, snake skeletons and spiders. I found it fascinating to imagine the history behind these items that were so old. The tooth inspired this alternative fairy-tale narrative; I simply wanted to make playful, bright, fresh objects with a static energy," she says.
Attention to detail and an obsession with structure are at the core of everything Greenfield creates, resulting in breathtaking quality. For Targets and Flight, Greenfield first decides on colors and types of feather before measuring and drawing out the design onto blank canvas. Next, each feather is positioned onto steel pins and Greenfield drills into the board to affix them. "I guess the hardest part is making sure the size, color and patternation on the feathers works with the structural shape," she explains. "When I'm producing a new piece, it's very much about working with the design as the shape evolves so timescales vary hugely. Yes, it can be frustrating but also quite therapeutic too!" In Dancing Teeth—a collection Greenfield is currently evolving—each tooth is individually cast before being carefully built into the sculpture.
Despite the effort involved, Greenfield is overwhelmingly positive about her future. "When you're working for yourself, the possibilities are endless and I think ultimately you get out what you put in. It's exciting not knowing what's coming next or what the next commission will involve. There's nothing better than doing something you love and I'm excited to be indulging in my own creativity."