There is no designer more colourful – both personally and professionally – than the Shropshire-born Bethan Laura Wood.
Bold, intense hues reverberate through everything Bethan Laura Wood touches, whether it’s the Super Fake rugs she has designed for cc-tapis, a wildly patterned and appliquéd Guadalupe daybed made with Laura Lees for Kvadrat, or the stained-glass-window- inspired collection of woven jacquards, Mono Mania Mexico, created with Limonta for Moroso.
It’s even in the way she presents herself – adorned in layers of silky, vibrant-patterned dresses, scarves and kimonos, sporting an interesting headdress and accompanied by the jangle of bracelets and oversized earrings, with her eyebrows, lids and lashes covered in rainbow hues. ‘I’ve always enjoyed colour; as a kid, I wore a lot of plastic star necklaces and I think I even had a Muppets backpack,’ says Bethan, laughing.
Looking around her studio – a vast garage space she shares with other creatives, on an industrial estate in east London – the shelves heave with treasured finds from her travels, prototypes for previous projects, huge slices of fake fruit (left over from her Fruits of Labour window design project for Hermès in 2014), tea sets and woven water bottle holders.
‘I’ve always collected things from flea markets and car-boot sales,’ Bethan says, though her body of work is far less humble. Fresh out of a master’s degree in Design Products at the Royal College of Art (under the tuition of iconic designers Jurgen Bey and Martino Gamper), Bethan founded her eponymous studio in 2009.
Only two years later, she exhibited at the renowned Nilufar gallery during Salone del Mobile with pieces such as Totem, a lighting collection made from Pyrex in collaboration with master glass-blower Pietro Viero. Totem has since morphed into the Criss-Cross chandelier and the Sputnik floor lamp, which Peter Pilotto showcased at its apartment pop-up during the London Design Festival in 2017.
It’s a perfect example of how Bethan’s collections evolve from one idea to another. Drawings of rocks and crystals that were started at the RCA have informed various designs, such as her earlier Moon Rock tables and the more recent stratum- patterned rugs for cc-tapis.
Sketches of particle boards inspired the patterning for TAC Rhythm, Bethan’s decorative take on Walter Gropius’ iconic TAC tea set, originally designed for Rosenthal in 1969. The toothpaste squiggle she created for the handles of Valextra’s Iside and Passepartout bags in 2018 subtly echoes in the spouts and handles of this year’s Tongue collection of cups, saucers, a sugar pot, teapot and plates, also for Rosenthal, in limited-edition hues of Hot Coral, Mild Turquoise, Peacock and Clay.
‘I enjoy being from the design genre rather than a discipline like sculpture; as a sculptor, you can choose whether your piece is about being touched, but it’s quite hard to make that argument for something like a teacup,’ says Bethan. ‘If I can make something where the length of time before it goes into landfill is longer, that’s better.’
Bethan’s latest immersive HyperNature installation for Perrier-Jouët, first commissioned for last year’s Design Miami, has been such a hit that there are now four versions of the champagne glass-holding tree (made from hand-dyed PVC) touring the globe. It was one of the star attractions at the champagne house’s pop-up bar for the Masterpiece art fair in London this past summer.
‘I’ve always been interested in making physical things that can connect to people,’ says Bethan. ‘In a world where we have so much stuff, if we’re not engaging with something, then does it need to exist at all?’ she muses.
‘When you manage to get that connection – it’s normally a reminder of another person, time or place – objects can have great power. And I find people’s connections to things, whether good or bad, are always very strongly affected by colour.’