issue #26: inspiration-hunters
Caleido’s interview to Bethan Laura Wood, multidisciplinary artist and designer, whose work is strongly characterised by research on materials, collaborative craftsmanship and a passion for colour, is the cover story of Issue #10, titled: Colorama. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here
Diary of: @bethanlaurawood
1. if I had to choose one adjective to describe your work, it would be “maximalist”: in its form, texture and colour. has it always been this way? looking back, do you identify various stages in your creative journey? what are the common and differentiating elements?
I have always been interested in details and in making work that responds to materiality and process. In my personal life, I am drawn to colour and pattern, but I’ve only became more comfortable working with them during my time at the @royalcollegeofart. Ever since then, you can notice several colour palettes running through my work connected to residency and location, from colours of London to shades of Venice and Italy, later moving to colours from Mexico and more recently from East Asia. I think you can also see a layering and composition as the common thread in a lot of my work.
2. one of the aspects that characterizes your work is the exaltation of colour, in all its forms. what is your personal recipe for making of the chromatic element a distinctive feature of your dna? in terms of colour, what is blw and what is absolutely not?
I try to create rhythm through my colours in order to have different tones that put together will make your eyes dance. I enjoy finding the balance in the use of many colours, generating enough movement to stimulate you and keep your attention, without being intrusive.
3. colour applied to objects and colour on yourself. what is your personal relationship with colour, in the various aspects of your world (clothing, your home interiors, makeup, accessories)?
I love to experiment with colour. I will often start by wearing colours to better understand them before working with them. I enjoy colours more when they interact, rather than as a solid block on their own.
4. yours is a mix of industrial production, high craftsmanship and handmade experimentation. which of these dimensions fascinates you most? in a globalised and digital world, how do these creative matrices coexist?
I find them all fascinating for different reasons, some materials can only work within, or exist when applied to mass productions, others can be used in both extremes but creating very different outcomes. I am always interested in a way to create work that speaks of here and now, in an environment built from layers and layers of industrialization, but always aware that our continue layering is having consequences.
I enjoy exploring “manual skill” within industrial processes, we often assume that industrial is separate from craft, but there are key moments in which the two intermix.
For example, a important skill of the modeler at Rosenthal, is having such an in-depth knowledge of the craft of slip casting as to understand how to “miss-shape” and pre distort their models and molds so that vessels will take the final intended shape inside the kiln through “sinking straight”, by offseting the movement of the clay that happens within the firing process, while being able to adapt to the specific tolerance of an additional component that may be made of a different material.
We have been experiencing a distancing of the end user from the producer and from the knowledge of how things are made. With Apple, for example, the owner’s ability to repair or tinker with the products is discouraged, every operation must be referred to only specialists. Or the traditional T shirts, that we can purchase at such a cheap price as a result of a huge industrialized system that has inevitable and devastating effects on the environment. A system that has enormously distanced manufacturing (materials, techniques) from the end product for which cost expectations are completely out of contest.
I enjoy making work that brings the spotlight back on the industrial processes as part of the story of the products. I wish to invite people to discover more about the manufacturing process involved, making them more aware of the dynamics surrounding mass products and how we value them.
5. your creative output reveals deep historical research, travel influences and personal experiences. what are your sources of inspiration (in both physical and digital dimensions)? how do you archive the materials that inspire you? can you name 3 instagram accounts we should follow?
My inspiration comes from everywhere, but I love areas of city that are most “alive”, spontaneous like food flowers or flea markets, connected to the city but also to specific timing.
I follow many Instagram accounts for different reasons, of collectors from around the world and also of various creatives. I enjoy seeing the world though their eyes on their Instagram.
@fabien.cappello is a wonderful designer and dear friend of mine; I love seeing his view of Mexico and his works.
@berjanpot is another designer who I greatly admire; I love following his experimentation with materials and the serious play within his work.
@lprenticeartantiques is one of many dealers I follow and visit at the market; Laurence has a great eye in particular for British works.
6. your eclecticism finds application in various fields – such as fashion, furniture and art – with projects exhibited in prestigious museums and cultural institutions, and created for various brands such as moroso, venini, valextra, cc-tapis, hermés… is there a creative method you apply to the development of such varied projects? can you tell us about it?
I think the secret behind all these collaborations was finding the sweet spot between the history of the brand, their specialization and my personal point of view. I always try to make of my work a dialogue between us, in which I learn from them and they, perhaps, discover a new way of seeing something the know so well through my interpretation.
7. getting dressed/dressing up. free self-expression, even through clothing, is a very hot topic in italy. what would you say to the new generations? and to politicians?
Have fun, be free to express yourself, make room for others, as including more people does not take anything away from you, it just makers for a bigger party!
8. your work often begins with a pencil sketch, which transfers a strong emotional impact given by the stratification of colours, shapes and materials. what is your relationship with notebooks/journals? can you tell us a curiosity linked to them?
Ever since I was a child, I have always drawn on sketchbooks. As many other creatives, I am dyslexic and so the written word, or an entire written journal, is definitely not a congenial way for me to express myself. On the contrary, I’ve always enjoyed sketching, so much so that as a child I was often taken on weekends to visit National Trust heritage homes and I wanted to process all those details by drawing them.
I find it funny when I think back to the sketchbooks I used to use at RCA… I had switched to Moleskines as a sign of trying to be “a real professional”, but I used the smaller ones they had. Then, as I got older, and as my confidence in my sketchbooks and my design work grew, I became more comfortable using even larger formats. Today I use a mix of A5, A4 and A3, perhaps also because as I get older my eyesight is waning so I can no longer work in such small formats!
9. your studio is a cabinet de curiosities, a collection of eclectic and outlandish objects. would you call yourself a tidy person? what are the most curious objects you keep? is your work solitary or collective? is your studio silent or do you like listening to music? if yes, what type?
My home and studio are filled with things I have collected that slowly make their way into my work. Especially at my home, I like to have objects that interact with each other, I don’t like to hide them in boxes, if there not out (apart from the Christmas decorations) then it means I don’t need them anymore. I try to keep things tidy; I don’t find it comfortable to be in an empty space, I like it to be full, but everything must be in its place. If not organized, I don’t find the space productive anymore.
The pre-covid studio was a very physical space. I like to share ideas with my team, in particular with Danae who has worked with me for 7 years. Now I love being in the studio with her, where we can draw, or look at things together observe, touch and discuss them. We have also done a lot of in-house production, so we would play with materials to see what we could do with them before working on a actual production layout. For more model-based projects, however I need more time on my own to work on rhythms and rules before sharing them.
I tend not to listen to music a lot, but I love Podcasts. I think I have listened to most of This American Life catalogue, I also like listing to series, there are some of which I really enjoy the soundscape, I can immerse myself in those better than I can do in music. But when I am writing I need complete silence.
10. what is one object in your home that you would never give up? what is the memory attached to it? would you send us a photo taken by you?
I really can’t make a choice between my objects; they are all special to me!