Rachael Colley

Rachael Colley is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in the UK. Her work brings together jewellery, created predominantly using food waste,  and ambiguous artefacts for eating. She invites users to wear these visceral jewellery pieces whilst consuming food with her sculptural dining tools.

What have you rebelled against in the past, and what are you rebelling against now?
I suffer from auto-immune diseases, which cause my body to constantly attack itself. I’m constantly rebelling against myself by trying to control my body, physically and mentally, which is the main inspiration behind the artwork I create.

Do you need to be a rebel to enjoy your work?
Not necessarily, but I think you would need to embrace the challenge that they present and have an open, playful approach.

Do you use your own work?
I have used and I do wear my own work on the odd occasion. I also create jewellery predominantly from food waste, but do not wear them all that often, because their action/effect could easily become normalised as a result of regular use.

Do you think cutlery can still be improved? If yes, in what way?
Cutlery generally tends to impede your eating experience, as it’s designed as a hygienic intermediary that conveniently and proficiently facilitates the negotiation between body and food. It’s problematic because, in many ways, it lessens the range of sensory aspects associated with our dining experience and efficiently speeds it up. I believe that we should aim to regularly interrupt our normalised dining experience by creating a series of dissociations in various ways, to slow us down and encourage us to reconsider and re-engage with the way we consume food. I do this by reimagining tools for eating and also creating jewellery from food waste, both of which are designed to be used and worn whilst eating.

What was the inspiration for your Steinbeisser series?
The first pieces in this series of Cutlery Combs were originally designed and created to feature in Ambiguous Implements, an Arts Council England funded national touring exhibition. The artefacts cross-reference bodily tools for grooming and dining, with the aim of forming abject associations that tread the line between playfulness and underlying feelings of disgust. These pieces have since gone on to develop a close connection with my own bodily sensations, correlating with my personal experience of eating, as they present challenges to the user and slow them down. I suffer from systemic sclerosis, a form of auto-immune disease that affects the function of my oesophagus through the hardening of internal skin surfaces and muscles. This makes normalised acts, such as swallowing, challenging and as a result I tend to eat smaller portions of more ‘swallowable’ foods at frequent intervals throughout each day. The series also indicates the importance of portion size through their varied scales and powder-coated surface areas, as food should only be consumed from the stainless steel.

Describe your work in 3 words!
Challenging. Playful. Disgusting.

What kind of materials do you use and where do you get them from?
The Cutlery Combs and for-K-andle pieces are made of re-purpose stainless steel forks and fork handles predominantly obtained from the Sheffield cutlery industry, but also from Ebay and charity shops. They are then soldered to form mild steel comb frames and powder-coated.

What are you working on right now?
A new series of jewellery titled Sha-Green created using denatured orange peel. This series aims to recreate and replace traditionally animal-based luxury surfaces, such as shagreen (ray or shark skin) with plant-based waste materials.

What has been your favourite dinner experience?
Jelly and ice cream as a child at kids parties.

What excites you about tomorrow?
Any opportunity to learn and experience something new.

What further ambitions do you have?
My main aim is to be happy and fulfilled in life. I will continue to work hard and be open to opportunities that come my way.

What are your 3 favourite pieces on Jouw…?
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to attend the Steinbeisser dinners in Amsterdam, where I had the opportunity to assist with art handling and serving. As a result I have experienced some of the pieces first-hand and this has influenced my choices. I love ceramics and both Adam Knoche‘s and Selen Ozus‘ works really stood out for me. Their varied weights and textures were as delicious as their aesthetic, with each reminding me of foods I love but have to eat in moderation – rolled marzipan and crusty artisan bread. Their undulating and cracked surfaces allowed food to escape from the diners and servers’ grasp and I also enjoyed the hygiene-related challenge each piece presented. My favourite’s the amazing musical cutlery by Stian Korntved Ruud because it was such a pleasure to present to each guest. Their delight on receiving it was palpable and that was very enjoyable as a server. Every piece highlighted sound as an important sensory aspect of the meal that connected the dinners across both of the event rooms and really encouraged a playful approach.