Turning on its head the notion that superficial ornamentation should be stripped away in favour of “pure” design, Bethan has created structure and form from the pattern up, making the pattern intrinsic to the design. Ornate is a series of wiggle and curve modules that interlock to create a variety of structures. Many references inform the shapes, echoing Bethan’s travels and inspirations over the past decade, from the copper fish of Venice, to Mexican Art Deco, and the Samurai Kabuto of Japan.
The first pieces of the new collection are a decorative bedhead and pair of scones, inspired by a mix of Peggy Guggenheim’s bedhead by Alexander Calder, and James McNeill Whistler’s “Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room” (one of the few remaining examples of an Aesthetic Movement interior). Bethan was interested to emulate three-dimensional pattern, which sits between embellishment and structure.
The aluminum is CNC milled and bespoke anodized with Aluminum specialist Neal Feay, then hand-assembled and punctuated with brass pin details in Bethan’s studio, to create contemporary jewellery for the home.
Ornate was first show as part of Bethan’s Nilufar Solo show in 2021
Ornate is a solo show by Bethan Laura Wood for Nilufar Gallery which celebrates a decade of dialogue between Bethan and gallerist Nina Yashar.
New works, shown alongside existing pieces by the designer, are partnered with historical works selected by Nina Yashar, to offer a wonderful journey into private lives and hidden spaces.
In this period of instability, when people are feeling the importance of having “a room of one’s own” in the tradition of Virginia Woolf, Bethan takes references from that historical period and in particular the British Aesthetic Movement and Art Nouveau, to create pieces that blur the line between two-dimensional decoration and three-dimensional form.
Bethan’s new work focuses on the boudoir – a woman’s private space for both spiritual contemplation and physical cultivation – and the objects that may be found there. Bethan invites the viewer to “travel through her mind’s eye” to the many cities and cultures that have played an important role in informing and influencing her practice over the last 10 years.
Bethan’s work is the realisation of both dreaming, her imagination, and reality, the culmination of her travels, for residencies and work, across Europe, to Mexico, California and East Asia. Working directly with or in response to exceptional craftspeople and the particular colours and materials palettes of the cities she visits, Bethan creates remarkable designs, from exuberant glass chandeliers made in dialogue between Mexican and Italian craftsmen, to intricate Italian textiles and Bavarian ceramics, pushing their boundaries and her own. Back in London, Bethan continues to reimagine those experiences in the pieces she makes, combining her skill with colour and precision of manufacturing, with reference to the contextual history and meaning of objects and aesthetics.
Bethan is especially interested in jewellery and physical adornment, which underpins her latest collection of projects. “Traditionally, such objects and practices are the ways in which women have expressed their identity, status and independence,” she says. “Especially in the past, when property ownership was restricted, except for that which could be worn and displayed on women’s own bodies. What women choose to wear became vitally important.” For her 2021 show, Bethan rescales and reimagines these forms into objects that inhabit architectural spaces.
Anodized Aluminum made in collaboration with Neal Feay
Brass and steel
Images by Angus Mills