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Bethan Gray on materialism

Bringing a decidedly hand-crafted and feminine approach to her work, we talk to industrial design Bethan Gray about the enjoyment that comes from working with skilled makers.

  • Victoria Tea Set

Bethan Gray is a self-described materialist. Welsh-born and based in the UK, she first started out as a design director with furnishings retailer, Habitat. “I learned so much by working with craftspeople and small workshops, as well as huge factories,” she says. In setting up her own studio in 2008, Gray looked to “explore the feminine side” of her design practice.

And while she doesn’t identify as a craftsperson specifically, she finds deep enjoyment in working with extraordinary makers and pushing the boundaries of their well-honed techniques.

Victoria Tea Set

Gray, whose designs are available in Australia through Living Edge, is drawn to the beauty of irregularity, inherent in handmade work. She points to the fine-grained ribbing on her Victoria Tea Set, produced with Italian design connoisseurs Editions Milano. Here an interplay of thick and thin edging is created through hand carving. And thanks to its natural marble materiality, even without the intervention of the hand, no two pieces would ever be the same.

Deeply embedded within Gray’s materialist approach is her love of stories – the telling of which unfolds through her object design. The jaunty chevron of the Alice Collection for Editions Milano belie the intelligent engineering of spliced marble and impressively thin surfacing. The collection pays homage to the black-and-white stone configurations of the 9th century Amalfi Cathedral located in Italy, and Switzerland’s 20th century San Giovanni Battista.

In fusing materiality with highly technical craftsmanship and complex storytelling, Gray has found her creative calling.

Photography courtesy the designer.

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