British designer Bethan Gray teamed up with natural surface specialist Nature Squared to create a series of tableware objects with the help of leftover materials such as seeds, sea shells, bark, egg shells and precious stones.
Designer-Gray- showcased her highly innovative and Exploring Eden furniture collection at Spazio Rossana Orlandi in Milan. The range consists of stools, tables, lounge chairs and a shelving unit. All these products are made from the waste products such as shells and feathers and are well complemented by accessories like bookends, bell jars and paperweights.
‘Exploration is at the heart of everything Nature Squared and I do. The Exploring Eden collection of furniture and accessories is our first expression of our shared passion for discovery, experimentation and pushing the limits of natural materials. Our journey has only just begun’ - Bethan Gray
The award-winning designer's implicit love for natural materials coupled with her strong sense for colour and texture can be seen through the enticing collection.
To make the tables, each feather is individually hand-tinted from the base with a black colour, which gradually spreads through to the natural white of the feather's tip. The feathers are then matched for size and symmetry, and embedded by hand on the surface of the tables before being sealed with a layer of clear resin.
"The opportunity to work with these incredible materials, and apply them to furniture for the first time, has been really exciting," said Gray.
Nature Squared and Bethan both share a passion for exploration, experimentation and pushing the boundaries of possibility within sustainable materials and craft. Gray attached with Nature Squared when she saw the potential in the techniques and skills of its artisans. There are around 250 skilled craftspeople employed by Nature Squared, who work on making beautiful luxury surface materials out of raw shells. These materials are mainly used for the interiors of private jets and super yachts.
‘They know their materials so well that it has been a real joy to join them in their explorations and push the boundaries of what the materials can do in the context of contemporary design,’ she says.
The designer has opted for abalone, capiz, pearl, pen and scallop shells along with goose and pheasant feathers for creating this mesmerizing collection. The colourful shells used across the collection were obtained from Filipino fishing communities with underway conservation projects while pheasant feathers and the British Goose came from birds that have been sustainably processed for food. Gray combined these pheasant and goose feathers with jade to craft a set of cylindrical stools, lounge chairs and side tables.
‘The capiz shell is usually used in circles, but by arranging it in a grid, not only is it a more efficient use of the material, but you get this striking modern pattern made from a side of the shell you don’t usually see.’ ‘In every piece in the collection, we’ve tried to keep things as simple as possible so the naturally occurring patterns and colours can really shine,’ says Bethan.
Nature Squared’s craftspeople have used plentiful pen shells in the collection to find a use for the shimmering black part of the shell that generally gets left behind.
A descended from a family of Rajasthani nomads, Gray has the expertise to neatly and precisely combine materials, resulting in products that are appealing and tactile. She gets inspiration from nature to create such bold and confident patterns. Her love of photography, travel and culture can be easily recognized through her refined colour palette. She is widely known for her adept use of marquetry and the embedding of beautiful and precious natural materials.
‘Putting matte black next to shiny, iridescent pearl really highlights it – and the black iridescence found in the base of the pen shells was a revelation. It is like a black rainbow and comes from the part of the shells that is usually discarded. I’ve never worked with iridescence before, so to find it in natural materials is really exciting. It’s added a whole new dimension to my colour palette.’- says Bethan Gray.
Gray, who is descended from a family of Rajasthani nomads, often uses craft techniques and materials from other countries in her work. She established her studio making best-selling collections of hand-crafted furniture and decorative accessories for global retailers and brands. The studio’s work features extensively in global media; has been recognised with four Elle Decoration British Design Awards; and is regularly exhibited in London, Milan, Paris and New York.
With almost 20 years’ experience in sustainability and social responsibility, Nature Squared is now expanding from their bespoke roots into furniture and accessories, to make their work accessible to a broader audience and promote the compatibility of such skills and quality with environmental, cultural and social stewardship. Their surfaces can be found in 92% of the world’s super yachts – and now through this new collection in stylish homes too.
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