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Design Voices | Bethan Laura Wood

UK-based multidisciplinary designer Bethan Laura Wood reveals the inspiration behind her collaboration with Italian rug company cc-tapis at Milan Design Week 2023. 

An unafraid approach to colour, pattern and material defines what English multidisciplinary designer Bethan Laura Wood wears – and how she works. “From a young age, I’ve always enjoyed dressing up and finding expression through my clothes,” she says. “Quite often, I will now digest colours and patterns through how I dress, helping me to find a language that feeds into what I’m working on.”

Establishing her namesake studio in 2009, Bethan’s portfolio spans textiles, furniture, lighting, sculpture, accessories, installation and set design, underpinned by notable brand collaborations and exhibitions in museums and galleries worldwide.

Bethan credits Mexico as having one of the most significant influences on her work, particularly her relationship with colour. “I was first invited to Mexico a decade ago; it was a very important experience for me – it blew my mind. You can see Mexico’s impact on my work through the flamboyance and complexity of colour,” she adds.

One of the first textiles Bethan saw in Mexico City was Otomí, traditionally made in the south, which features animals in rainbow embroidery on a plain cotton background – something we’re traditionally led to believe is reserved for children. “The history and complexity of the textile; there’s nothing like it,” she says. “I still have a lot to learn, but the warmth of the Mexican culture and people have a very strong place in my heart.”

 

 

Photography by Simon17

Guadalupe is a body of patterns that Bethan has evolved many times since her first visit, inspired by The New Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe in Mexico City. For Milan Design Week 2023, Italian rug company cc-tapis asked the designer to explore Guadalupe through a rug and wall hanging collection, using different techniques to create 3D effects.

Seeing the pieces in person for the first time, Bethan ran her hands across each detail – “I really like this square here with the little bits popping out, and the sense of movement” – showing how the details changed from “seventies-inspired, chunkier yarn” in some areas to the “shimmering silk and finer, flatter Himalayan wool” in others.

Bethan says the collection’s nostalgic colour palette doesn’t necessarily reflect the Basilica’s colours. “It’s about finding that balance between being respectful of what you’re inspired by and not trying to make a replica of the architect and glass artist’s amazing work,” Bethan maintains. “The colour palette is 1950s-inspired, like a soft afternoon; it’s not quite sunset.”

The designer admits that while “it doesn’t look like it from how I choose to dress”, she needs a set system when designing something new. “I’ve always enjoyed working with certain themes, but every time I start something, I will try and take it in a different direction,” she says. “That’s why for me, the world of Guadalupe is so intoxicating.”

 

Bethan Laura Wood’s Guadalupe rugs for cc-tapis | Photography by Simon17

An openness to learning is also the theme of Bethan’s impending showcase in the National Gallery of Victoria Triennale exhibition in late 2023. Bethan’s commission will explore gender, education and learning within the gallery’s British Regency room featuring existing works from the 18th and 19th centuries.

“I’m interested in the different ways of learning for women, especially during that time period,” she says. “I am recognising the works that were made through craft forms or activities while celebrating the power of collaboration and creating new thoughts and different ways of seeing among women.”

This feature originally appeared in the Milan 2023 Special Issue of est magazine. 

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