Meisen Caterpillar

Evoking the famous caterpillar from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”, whose animated adaptation was on hard rotation in Bethan’s house as a child.

Bethan has stretched her little bug up into a multi-draw cabinet with the psychedelic patterns of the bespoke Alpi veneer cascading down from his head to torso, evoking the colourful swirls and curls of ‘magical’ smoke he would use it illustrate his conversation and spark the imagination.

Caterpillar is part of the Meisen Cabinet and Desk family.

Originally an investigation into handles, whose detailed construction became jewellery for furniture, this project has developed into cabinets and a desk with curvaceous forms dressed in ALPI’s beautiful veneer, which echoes Bethan’s love of Meisen Kimonos.

On seeing the ALPI veneer mid-process, Bethan was fascinated with its complex composition, just as she had been with the dying process of Meisen Kimono fabric. Bethan hand-selected each sheet of veneer, to showcase ripples and waves of colour, which depict a unique moment in the fabrication process before reworking to achieve product uniformity. The feathered edges of each colour wave created by the natural wood grain resemble the shimmering, almost vibrating, patterns of the weft and warp in Ikat weaving, which are used to produce Meisen fabric.

Bethan’s continued interest in materials that cross the divide between natural and manmade, and the processes of mass production and skilled craftsmanship, is taken forward in these pieces, which present a recognisable visual echo between Meisen fabric and wood veneer.

To create the cabinets and desk, Bethan partnered pattern with forms inspired by entomology, in particular quoting the legs and antennae of crickets and the patterned elytron of beetles. The traditional forms of East Asian cabinets and chests, also a strong influence on the Aesthetic Movement, are also quoted.

Meisen was developed as part of Bethan’s solo show Ornate, in 2021.


Images by Emanuele Tortora.