Though we first spotted her at designjunction 2016, Bethan Gray has been rather a big name on the design scene since winning the Best British Designer Award 2013/14. Having exhibited at designjunction 2015, Gray returned this year to showcase some of the most popular pieces from her award-winning studio and launch the new Shamsian Collection. Her furniture caught our eye instantly, and after learning about the extensive design processes behind it, we’re not surprised by its captivating effect.
Bethan is often influenced and inspired by cultural references in her work. From the black and white medieval churches in Italy, which were the inspiration for her Band Collection, to the dome of the Sheikh Lotfollah mosque in Isfahan, which inspired her Ruby Tree Collection, Bethan has an innate ability to translate and transform these references into contemporary pieces that are warm, timeless and elegant. The Shamsian Collection was designed in collaboration with renowned artist Mohamad Reza Shamsian and inspired by Omani architectural references and craft.
“Cultural referencing is at heart of my design philosophy. Through my travels and research I’m inspired to create original contemporary pieces that resonate with global, as well as local, audiences, and that have an elegant and timeless appeal. Currently I’m particularly drawn to the graphic nature of Islamic art and craft.” – Bethan Gray
Present in all of her work is a focus on natural materials. The Shamsian Collection features intricate use of marquetry on stained birds-eye maple, in stunning combination with solid brass or mother of pearl. Bethan has continued to explore her versatile palette - which ranges from soft muted feminine shades to highly saturated, more masculine colours - through the painstaking selection and use of natural materials. The coloured woods, metallics and mother of pearl from the Shamsian Collection all sit perfectly against the stone colours of her Band Collection and the rose quartz of The Ruby Tree pieces.
Mohamad Reza Shamsian and his team of 70 highly skilled master craftsmen at their studio in Muscat, Oman, specialise in various highly intricate crafts such as marquetry, khatam, damascene and solid brass inlay. Shamsian had been searching for the perfect designer to translate his ancient, traditional craft into modern and contemporary designs. When he came across Bethan Gray, he was immediately drawn to her highly original style and her deep empathy for Islamic art and craft.
At the heart of the collection is the beautiful Nizwa cabinet, the detailing of which takes inspiration from the architectural patterning of the Nizwa Fort in Oman. The robust building has powerfully stood for centuries as a symbol of military strength, but through its hidden and intricate details, it also reveals Omani architectural ingenuity. Elegantly crafted using brass overlay, the repeating pattern on Bethan and Shamsian’s Nizwa pieces reflect the rounded architectural composition of the fort’s castellation. The Nizwa collection is made with beautiful maple veneer sourced from Italy and the ombré on the cabinet is created by hand using a technique called stain shading.
Bethan Gray; bethangray.com