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.
If you had access to all the powers, how would you improve the world?
I think my first areas of focus would be around eliminating all kinds of deforestation as well as getting money out of politics.
Which conscious lifestyle choices are you making? And are you considering any new ones?
I am fortunate to have a partner who is religious about purchasing clothing secondhand, and we also repair and sew our own clothes. Same goes for shoes. I can’t really remember the last time I bought something new. When it comes to food, we have a big family, so it’s important for us to cook at home, mostly vegetarian or vegan, and be conscientious about food waste. We do not own a car and use bikes to get around the city. Our biggest challenge when it comes to living sustainably in alignment with our values has been around reducing air travel. However, one of the lessons 2020 has taught us is that a life lived without international travel can still be a good life. We have close family who live internationally, so while we do not want to eliminate air travel from our lives entirely, I think we’ll plan for longer and fewer visits to reduce the number of flights.
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 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 pieces?
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 has been your favorite 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.