Image courtesy of Bethan Gray


Her philosophy of craft, storytelling and innovation

Bethan Gray is an award-winning London-based designer renowned for graphic patterns, natural materials and a bold colour palette. Her ancestors were a nomadic Rajasthani clan who migrated across Arabia and Persia over centuries before settling in Wales; inspired by this rich heritage, Bethan travels all over the world collaborating with more than 400 artisans to create stunning pieces that combine heritage crafts with material innovation. We spoke with her about her inspiration, process and new collection.

Why did you decide to launch your own brand?

A decade as Habitat’s design director gave me a really good grounding in the commercial workings of the industry and extensive experience collaborating with craftspeople all over the world. I launched Bethan Gray Design with my husband Massimo in 2008 because I wanted the freedom to find my voice — I was particularly excited about working with natural materials such as marble, leather and brass, and pushing the boundaries of what was possible through traditional craft techniques and cutting-edge technology.

Image courtesy of Bethan Gray

So collaboration is at the heart of everything I do. I’ve spent the last 20 years developing close relationships with master craftspeople all over the world. When we visit, it’s not just about work, but about sharing meals and watching our children play together. Working within equal partnerships based on mutual trust and respect, we combine contemporary design and technology with traditional craft, which creates furniture and home accessories that give endangered skills new relevance in commercial markets.

For me, seeing the first samples is always a special moment. Using natural materials means that every piece is different, and because they’re handcrafted, you can really see the human hand in the result.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everything I design starts with a story. I travel a lot, noticing moments of beauty such as the billowing sails of the traditional dhow boats in Oman. I become completely immersed in capturing stories like that with hundreds of photographs and hand drawings.

Image courtesy of Bethan Gray

What’s your favourite material to work with?

That’s an impossible question! I love the imperfections of natural materials, their tactility and the limitations they put on the making process, which I love to challenge. My latest collection Exploring Eden, which is the result of a collaboration with Nature Squared, reimagines by-products of the food industry transformed into beautiful surfaces from which I’ve created furniture and accessories. We used subtle pink scallop shells that we carefully trimmed to show their natural striated texture and then inlaid by hand into black eco-resin — that’s a pretty special material.

Image courtesy of Bethan Gray

What’s your favourite item that you’ll be stocking at Lane Crawford?

It would have to be the Jade Nizwa cabinet. The design was inspired by the way the sunlight falls across the rounded castellations of the Nizwa Fort in Oman, causing an ombré colour effect. It’s made from Italian maple veneers, dyed immediately after being cut from the tree when still “wet” and hand-shaded by master craftspeople in Muscat. The marquetry pattern is carefully constructed by hand using 108 individual elements of solid brass, copper or nickel and 118 maple veneer “petals” for each door.

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2019-09-18 00:00:00.0