I was gutted to miss this year’s London Design Festival (although we did have a lovely holiday). I stayed in touch with events via social media (sad, I know) and was mesmerised by these images of the utterly gorgeous new Shamsian Collection from award-winning British designer Bethan Gray.
So today is Fantasy Friday, where we get all dreamy over these luscious pieces of design and craftsmanship. Because these are expensive, and I mean really expensive – but one can dream… (and go buy a lottery ticket).
Where to start? Maybe with the story of the collaboration between Bethan and Mohamad Reza Shamsian, a renowned and highly sought-after Iranian artist:
Bethan Gray’s work is well-known for its use of luxurious materials such as semi-precious stones, marble, wood, and hand-tooled leather, and the fusion of cutting-edge design technology with the most intricate of traditional craft skills. Her Brogue Tables, which include an intricately detailed leather strip that references the decorative perforations and elegant stitching of traditional brogue shoes, became instant modern design classics.
Shamsian had been searching for the perfect designer to translate his ancient, traditional craft into modern and contemporary designs. When he came across the award-winning Bethan Gray, he was immediately drawn to her highly original style and her deep empathy for Islamic art and craft.
The exclusive Shamsian Collection highlights the meticulous technique of inlaying/overlaying solid brass and paua shell inlay into coloured solid wood and maple veneer, creating a highly detailed, exquisite patterning that perfectly accentuates Bethan’s designs. The remarkable collection merges traditional craft with modern, elegant and contemporary design to create a truly unique and timeless aesthetic.
Back to the London Design Fair last month, though, and the Shamsian Collection was unveiled. I so wish I’d been there – these photos are mouth-watering enough. I can’t wait to see these pieces for real.
The traditional technique of marquetry has been used in Islamic craft as far back as the 16th century and involves inlaying pieces of wood, solid brass, shells or other materials into a base surface to create intricate and detailed patterns. Each piece is handmade to order in Muscat, Oman by Shamsian’s team of highly skilled master craftsmen.
I can’t stop looking at pictures of this cabinet, part of the Shamsian Nizwa Collection – that amazing green/blue! That delectable coral pink! And that’s before we even get to the details: the ombré effect on the maple wood is created by hand using a technique called stain shading and the distinctive patterning is crafted using solid brass overlay.
The Shamsian Paua Collection (above and below) is a reinterpretation of the iconic Brogue Table that I mentioned above. Paua abalone shell (sourced from the eastern coastal waters of New Zealand) has been meticulously inlaid into stained birds-eye maple to recreate the detailed and exquisite brogue patterning.
For the Shamsian Dhow Collection, Bethan has taken inspiration from the traditional Dhow sailing boats of Oman. Their large triangular cotton sails are sewn together in strips and then bound to the hull using coir ropes creating shapes and textures that provided the inspiration for the curved inlay of brass into lacquer for this collection.
More brass inlay, this time into maple wood, has been used for the Shamsian Masirah Collection which takes its name from a desert island off the coast of Oman. Again, the shapes are inspired by the rounded wooden shapes of the traditional Dhow boats that were made there.
As well as being a feast for the eyes, Bethan Gray’s Shamsian collection also feels to me like a wonderful journey of the imagination, conjuring up images of colourful, exotic, far-away places – just the tonic for this grey, autumn London day. Wishing you and yours a very happy weekend, wherever you are.
Images: Bethan Gray