British Designer Bethan Gray Creates Furniture with Seashells ⇒ Established in 2008, Bethan Gray Design creates luxury handcrafted collections of furniture and home accessories that are sold through global retailers such as Harrods, Liberty, Lane Crawford and EJ Victor, and also available directly.
Bethan Gray has an extraordinary background: born to a Scottish father and Welsh mother, her maternal family descends from a nomadic Rajasthani clan that migrated across Arabia and Persia over centuries. Inspired by her heritage and fuelled by a deep-seated curiosity about global art and culture, Bethan has travelled to India, Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa and South America.
By collaborating with master craftspeople and bringing contemporary relevance to their work, she is able to connect them to new commercial markets all over the world, celebrating and preserving their skills in her furniture and home accessories.
Gray took advantage of the pearlescent and iridescent qualities of capiz, pearl, scallop and pen shells to give each of the furniture pieces a unique pattern and colour. Nature Squared, which has an office in the same west London building as Gray, buys the shells directly from workers in Filipino fishing communities, who collect the seafood, tin it and would then otherwise throw the shells away.
Nature Squared employs 250 craftspeople in the Philippines, who turn the raw shells into luxury surface materials that are usually used for the interiors of superyachts and private jets.
Nature Squared handmade fine shell-threads from leftover mother-of-pearl taken from river-pearl cultivation that was used to create a series of cylindrical, fluted stools and side tables. Each thread is ground down to the desired smoothness and fineness before being inlaid into the base material, and the gaps filled in with a black resin.
Further pieces include a table with etch-like patterns, made by inlaying pink scallop shells into the surface, and a shelving unit with a pink, gridded pattern that makes use of scrapped capiz shells.
Nature Squared also buys discarded pheasant and goose feathers from the British poultry industry, which Gray has combined with jade to create a set of cylindrical side tables. While goose down is widely known for its use in clothing and bedding, the quills are less readily sold.
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