Meisen Cabinets and Desk
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
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.
Images by Emanuele Tortora.