BETHAN LAURA WOOD

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It’s an understatement to say Bethan Laura Wood likes colour. Looking every inch a modern-day Frida Kahlo, the bright young British designer is wowing the global creative scene – and that’s not just down to her eye-popping clothes. Her work, from furniture and glass to ceramics, lighting, textiles and fashion, is bold, vibrant and wonderfully expressive. This week sees Wood curating Broadgate's Makers Mini Market, where East London designers will showcase cross-disciplinary wares. Expect the unexpected...

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

Tell us about this week's pop-up Makers Mini Market in London.
I was invited to curate the Makers Mini Market and wanted to see how it could be interesting or different from just another type of makers market. I really liked the idea of bringing together a mix of creative people from East London whose work I follow on Instagram and that crosses over different disciplines. 

What can we expect?
There’s dyed marble from Silo Studio, Fashion East newcomer Harry Evans will be showing smaller accessories, and illustrator and sculptor Saelia Aparicio will be showcasing her pickle jars filled with balloons. There are seven designers in total, each with their own shed and creative world. One shed, devoted to workshops and talks, has my pattern all over it and I will be in and around the market.

ABOVE: Bethan Laura Wood in her studio with a bag from the forthcoming 'Toothpaste' collection for luxury Italian accessories brand Valextra. Wood designed witty handles and clasps for the SS18 range
BELOW: Two worlds collide as colourful patterned sheds nestle among the vast corporate structures of Broadgate for Makers Mini Market

ABOVE: Bethan Laura Wood (centre) with her band of East London creatives from Makers Mini Market. From left: Tino Seubert, Beth PostleAttua Aparicio Torinos of Silo Studio, Ryan Coleman Connolly, Kim Thomé, Saelia Aparicio, Harry Evans; Evans invites you in to see his take on menswear and accessories

You've designed for Nilufar Gallery, Bitossi CeramicheKvadrat, Abet Laminati and Hermès, among others. What are you most known for?
My style is very colourful with lots of layers and texture. My work often focuses on materiality and exploring that through design. I also do a lot of locality-based work and make direct references from places when I have the opportunity to travel. For example, I’ve completed a range of designs based on Mexico City: the colours, patterns and architecture there all resonate with me.

Where's next on your travel wish list?
I went to Japan a year ago and absolutely loved it, so I would really love to go back and work with artisans there. I’m also a big lover of kimonos. I would like to spend time seeing how the fabrics are woven and explore how the shapes could be taken in a furniture direction, while honouring their proportions.

BELOW: Wood's spectacular blown glass lights at Peter Pilotto's 'Townhouse Takeover' during September's London Design Festival 2017

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Your floor lamps for Peter Pilotto were a hit at September's London Design Festival and your work appeared in three of our top LDF17 FizzPicks. What was your highlight?
I love the opportunity to collaborate with others on a project like the Peter Pilotto Townhouse Takeover. Much like the Makers Mini Market, I enjoy everyone working together to create something special. 

How does working in fashion and interiors compare?
In the fashion industry, the speed is crazy fast, whereas furniture production has a much longer lead time. For me, I really enjoy the crossover. I’ve just collaborated on a line of handles and clasps for Valextra in Italy, for a limited-edition range of their bags called the 'Toothpaste' collection. It was great to have access to their production and find a way to incorporate my skills too.

ABOVE: Classics with a twist... Milan brand Valextra's 'Toothpaste' collection of iconic 'Iside' (left) and 'Passepartout' (right) handbags updates the original designs' sleek lines with Wood's cartoon-like, graphic handles and clasps. A new 'It' bag duo is born

Left to your own devices, what’s your interior style?
There’s a lot of stuff in my house! It’s not minimal. A lot of my work is inspired by colours, patterns and things that I find at flea markets, so my home is pretty much filled with stuff like that. All of these things go on to inspire a project.

Is there an era or style that you’re drawn to? 
I have a love of 60s Pop furniture and Memphis. I like the joy and excitement in all of their colours. I also live in an amazing Art Deco building in the middle of Hackney. I love it. The signature colour of the architecture is dusky blue with mint-green staircases and pastel-pink doors. I knew it was the place for me.

What qualities do you most like in a room? 
I find lots of objects comforting. A minimal, blank white space may be the dream for some but it is the opposite for me. I love to enter people’s spaces or worlds where there are so many things to look at and explore. I like things busy.

Growing up, what was the dream?
I’ve always been a collector. When I was younger, I wasn’t allowed to paint my walls. I never got my ideas for interior decor past my parents, so I’d change things up with objects instead. 

What part of the design process do you enjoy most?
I love dreaming up concepts and realising the difficult bit of turning ideas and sketches into something amazing. I like model making, so that always makes me happy when I can get off the computer and start building something in 3D. Also, when I go into a workshop and start talking, touching materials, seeing what’s working and what’s not, that's really enjoyable for me.

Who are your design heroes?
My tutors at the RCA, Jurgen Bey (above left) and Martino Gamper (left), have been really influential on my work but there are many, many, many others.

What are you most proud of?
Usually, it’s the last thing I’ve done. I like to keep challenging myself. I have a soft spot for my laminate marquetry. It’s a language and a technique that I love playing with so that’s one of my favourite pieces.

What’s your social media of choice?
I’m aware that I must take part in social media (*sighs*). I’m not really a writer, so I use Instagram the most. It’s fun to see what other people are posting and photographing. 
bethanlaurawood.com  
broadgate.co.uk/makers-mini-market-east-london-where-to-shop
#BroadgateDESIGN

Makers Mini Market, curated by Bethan Laura Wood, runs from 4 to 7 October 2017 at Finsbury Avenue Square, Broadgate, London EC2 (11am–6pm, free admission)

BRODIE NEILL Made in Ratio

Born in Australia, Brodie Neill's designs have proved a global hit. His eponymous London-based label crafts limited editions and public commissions, while his brand Made in Ratio produces eye-catching furniture and lighting. A furniture design graduate from Tasmania, he has created work for Italian firms Kundalini and Riva 1920, as well as one-off projects for Austrian crystal company Swarovski and British fashion guru Alexander McQueen.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired you to start Made in Ratio?
I set up Made in Ratio in 2013 to create a more accessible furniture collection to sit alongside the limited edition and commission pieces produced by my studio, but one that still maintained my trademark high quality of form, originality and innovation. 

What’s the brand’s design vision?
To bring thoughtful and progressive ideas to life that are in perfect proportion: of form and function, time-honoured and new materials, traditional hand craftsmanship and boundary-pushing digital process. 

ABOVE: Brodie Neill with his sculptural 2015 'Wishbone' seats, three-way organic benches commissioned by Hobart's Brooke Street Pier
ABOVE RIGHT: The stackable 'Alpha' chair with A-shaped back

ABOVE: The head-turning 'Supernova' table and 'Alpha' chair helped put Neill's London-based brand Made in Ratio on the map, combining traditional craftsmanship with digital technology

Your ‘Supernova’ table and ‘Alpha’ chair have helped make your name. Tell us more.
Both ‘Supernova’ and ‘Alpha’ are the result of organic engineering, inspired by nature and refined through technology. The ‘Supernova’ trestle is formed by pouring 100 per cent recycled molten aluminium into a sand casted mould. We combined an ancient manufacturing process with environmental sustainability to produce a modern product with a long lifespan. A toughened glass top rests on the star-shaped trestles, which can be positioned in various multiples and orientations to create a dining table, desk or coffee table.

Our ‘Alpha’ chair is inspired by whale vertebrae that wash up on the shores of Tasmania’s coast. The name is derived from the A-shaped structure of the back legs and backrest, which give the chair its strength. ‘Alpha’ is formed from six components individually CNC-shaped and assembled into the single seamless form using traditional and contemporary woodworking techniques.

What projects do you have coming up?
2016 kicked off with Made in Ratio presenting our collection at January's Maison&Objet design fair in Paris, including reiterations of some of our most recognised pieces. We are planning events at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan and the London Design Festival. In Australia, I was delighted to be shortlisted for the recent Rigg Design Prize exhibition at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria. Made in Ratio also has exciting projects coming up in 2016 through its commercial partner Living Edge design store in Australia. In Hobart, we have designed the ‘Wishbone’ sculptural seating for the Brooke Street Pier, which is now open to the public.

BELOW: Made in Ratio's 2013 'Cowrie Rocker' rocking lounger takes its cue from the concave curves of seashells. The sweeping all-in-one structure is formed from plywood with a veneer of natural ash, ebonised ash, walnut or oak.

photo: brooke holm

photo: brooke holm

Do you still work independently as Brodie Neill on design-art and limited edition commissions? Or does Made in Ratio dominate your time?
The two studios work hand-in-hand and our research and experimentation for projects in one studio informs our work in the other. I established Made in Ratio as a small, self-produced collection to complement my complete creative output. Currently, under the Brodie Neill arm, we are working on private commissions in Asia and the USA, new furniture products for Italian brand Riva 1920, and ‘Portal’, an eight-metre sculpture for Brooke Street Pier on the waterfront of Tasmania's capital Hobart, a landmark meeting point that will be installed mid-2016.

Where do you get inspiration?
The beauty and complexity found in nature continues to be my biggest source of inspiration; over millennia, through evolution, nature has already resolved many of the design challenges we face today. This inspiration manifests itself in the overall form as well as the details in my designs.

ABOVE: Moulded from a single piece of Corian, Made in Ratio's 2014 'Pleat' indoor/outdoor bench effortlessly overlaps at each end to create an elegant silhouette

How do the UK and Australian design scenes differ?
With the help of modern communication, the two countries are now closer than ever before and through recent projects, I’ve been lucky to be part of both. London is nearer to other established design capitals such as Milan, Paris and Stockholm as well as burgeoning design scenes in cities including Berlin, Lodz and Ljubljana, which all influence the vibrancy of the creative scene and diversity of work across Europe. 

In Australia it’s great to see local design getting the chance to shine, thanks to some fantastic recent projects, with more currently underway all over the country. Through Made in Ratio’s partnership with Living Edge we are fortunate to be part of these exciting schemes.

Globally, we’re seeing a shift away from the bigger brands of Europe and North America – these guys still control the market share don’t get me wrong! – but we’re seeing a scope for smaller operations as alternatives and this suits locally designed and produced pieces in Australia and throughout the world. 

What’s currently exciting you in design, architecture or art?
I find it inspiring to see materials being used in original ways and innovation in processes where new life is breathed into forgotten crafts through the aid of digital design. It’s also at the crossroads of previously defined design fields that the real magic happens, where science meets art, nature meets technology and the old meets the new. Preconceived design disciplines are discarded allowing contemporary creatives to roam free across uncharted territory.

ABOVE: The 'Supernova' table in a fresh incarnation, supported by a trio of trestles in spaceage shapes and tempting turquoise

Which design era has influenced you the most?
The pioneering period of the 1950s and 60s has been particularly influential in my designs. It was a very potent time of experimenting with new materials and technologies. The era also saw an emergence of playfulness in designers and their sculptural ideas for the home.

Where’s on your travel wishlist?
I have just returned from the IMM Cologne design show and Paris. Over the next few months, I have some trips planned in Europe to meet the craftspeople we work with and visit factories. I am also keen to build on our success in the Far East and will be travelling to China and Japan towards the middle of the year and then Australia. 

What’s your social media of choice?
Design is inherently a visual industry so Instagram and Twitter lend themselves really well as platforms where we can tell stories through images and also seek inspiration and keep in touch with wider industry trends. Follow us on @madeinratio and @brodieneill.
madeinratio.com   brodieneill.com