Rebecca Deans is an applied artist and contemporary jewellery maker living and working in Sweden. Her work raises awareness of the urgency of environmental issues connected to soil and the opportunity it offers to operate in and between the personal and public spheres. She attempts to reveal our relationship with soil, our effect on the earth and its effect on us.
What have you rebelled against in the past, and what are you rebelling against now?
Arbitrary rule-making has never sat well with me.
Do you need to be a rebel to enjoy your work?
Hmm… I don’t think so. Our connection with the earth is one of coming home, I think we can resist it, but then when we’re there, there is a feeling of recognition and belonging.
Do you use your own work?
The objects in my home are currently tyrannised by a toddler’s urgent and forceful grasp, thus any objects deserving special care have been stowed away for the time being.
Do you think dishware can still be improved? If yes, in what way?
I’d like my dishware to be in greater conversation with my hands that hold it. I want them to talk to each other. So much of the dishware I encounter is silent, or takes a very, very long time before having anything to say. For cutlery, I think we could be more intentional in using materials and forms that enhance or complement the flavours and texture of the food being served when they encounter the mouth, and likewise avoid materials that taste poorly.
What was the inspiration for your Steinbeisser series?
I wanted to bring the user back to the earth from which our food grows and celebrate that connection. I also wanted to explore soil as a material in my studio, spend time with it, enjoy the feeling of it in my hands, and learn from it.
Describe your work in 3 words!
Tempting. Soothing. Unknown.
What kind of materials do you use and where do you get them from?
Organic soil, purchased. In other bodies of work I have dug the soil up myself, but for a series on which food would be eaten, I felt it was important to source organic soil. Various minerals and pigments, also purchased. I am a big fan of Kremer Pigmente in Munich – what an amazing store! Rabbit and skin glues are used as binders. Shellac as a sealant.
What are you working on right now?
I have been reading and thinking a lot decolonisation and what that could mean in my work, especially at it connects to land rights and, again, our way of relating to the earth.
What has been your favourite dinner experience?
I used to be part of a community when I lived in San Francisco that gathered annually around different seasonal harvests and food processing – someone might have recently hunted a wild boar and needed help skinning or roasting it, there were the grape harvests, the crush, the bottling of the wine; the tomato harvest and ensuing daylong slicing and dicing, boiling and canning of tomato sauce, and so forth. Almost always the host showed their appreciation of their friends’ hard work by putting together a big feast, whether it be in a field or a forge. These are very happy memories.
What excites you about tomorrow?
I long for a good beach day: basking, reading, listening to the lapping waves, swimming, reading, digging my toes into the sand, swimming, reading, on repeat.
What further ambitions do you have?
To stay current with myself and push beyond my own horizons of understanding, to ride that edge of discomfort and not knowing, and to be honest, humble and kind to myself, others and our beautiful earth while doing so.