Furniture inlaid with shells and feathers

Welsh designer Bethan Gray and material company Nature Squared collaborated for the project Exploring Eden, a collection of furniture and accessories inlaid with natural iridescent materials like feathers and shells.

Nature Squared is a material company that specialises in surfaces made from natural surfaces, using materials ranging from bamboo to shells and from feathers to jade stone. Gray is a celebrated furniture and homeware designer.

The collection consists of ten key pieces including furniture like armchairs, tables, and shelves, and accessories like paper weights, bookends and bell jars.

One of the tables is made with scallops shells. These shells come in a variety of colours, ranging from acid yellow to inky purple. The surface of shelves is made of capiz shell, a thin, almost translucent found in the Indo-Pacific ocean. Another shell used is abalone, a delicacy throughout East Asia. While wild populations are threatened, the smaller variety used is plentiful. All these shells are bought from fishermen in the Philippines, providing them with extra income and supporting conservation efforts.

Aside from shells, feathers are also used. The goose feathers from the side table are a by-product of the British farming and food industry. While the down is used in clothing and bedding, the quills are less readily sold. Each feather is individually hand-tinted black from the base, graduating through the natural white of the feather’s top. The feathers are inlaid by hand and sealed with a layer of clear resin. Other types of feathers used are pheasant and chicken, also a waste material from the food industry.

Another material used in the collection is jade stone. This material is mined in the Philippines by indigenous tribesmen, whom are directly paid by the company. To make the objects, the jade is cut and ground into long thin threads and inlaid into the object.

The Exploring Eden collection was introduced at Milan Design Week 2019.

Photos: Bethan Gray / Nature Squared