Bethan Gray x Baroncelli Atelier | Milan Design Week 2022

As part of Bethan Gray’s immersive INKY DHOW installation during Salone del Mobile 2022, on show at Rossana Orlandi’s eponymous gallery in Milan’s Magenta district (June 6-12), the British designer launches a new series of lighting in collaboration with the innovative design-led lighting studio Baroncelli.

“The new lighting is an adaptation of Baroncelli’s existing FLEXUS series – it was a design I thought went really well with our collection, in the way it combines traditional Murano mouthblown glass techniques with contemporary brass highlights, which sit perfectly alongside my own pieces,” says Bethan.
Created in collaboration with Giovanni Corrado, Creative Director of Baroncelli, this is the culmination of a long friendship between the two designers who first met at Decorex many years ago.  “Collaborating with another designer is always very personal so this collection needed to reflect both of us,” says Giovanni.  While the pieces capture the essence of Baroncelli’s original design, they are also imbued “with all of Bethan’s personality in this new addition.  It’s a beautiful marriage of two designs, and two designers, and the result is show stopping,” he enthuses.

The ORION SWIRL and POLARIS SWIRL pieces feature individually mouthblown Murano glass spheres in blue, white and clear glass stripes, echoing the flowing lines of Bethan’s painterly Inky Dhow design which is also translated across different materials such as leather, ceramic, veneer, wool and silk.

Making each individual sphere has been a feat of engineering within itself, given the volatile nature of glass and “the challenge of combining different colours with varying expansion coefficients, meaning each colour will expand at a different rate,” explains Giovanni. “First, a cylinder of colours is created by laying out alternate strips of blue, white and clear glass which is then placed on to a blowing rod and coated with a clear glass to give it a beautiful sheen,” he furthers. “Then the maestro starts to blow it out, evening out the texture and ensuring there are no faults in the glass; this is then placed within a custom-designed mould made of local pear wood to ensure each sphere is blown precisely to the right size, otherwise it won’t fit within its consequent metal frame.”
Each sphere is ingeniously lit not from within the globe but by LED lights fitted to the inside of its brass ring, creating “a warm, diffused glow,” explains Giovanni. For Bethan, the striped shadow play that comes from light filtering through the sphere’s clear strips also perfectly ties the collection to where they are made, evoking thoughts of the swirling stripes of Venice’s candy-striped ‘paline de casada’ mooring poles, and Bethan’s own long-held love of stripes inspired by her travels, from the monochrome marble patterning of Italian cathedrals to 13th century Persian ceramics.

UPSWIRL, a one-off family of table top accessories, has been fashioned from spheres which didn’t meet the exacting requirements for the final lamps and pendants. “As with the complications inherent in anything handmade, we ended up with some spheres that weren’t quite right. Maybe the twist at the bottom, as the colours all come together in the mould, was too accentuated; or the expansion of the colours was too inconsistent, meaning the white stripes didn’t expand anywhere near as much as the blues,” explains Giovanni. The pair decided to try to cut or embellish them and “have a bit of fun,” Bethan enthuses. “After all the effort that goes into making them, it felt important to give them a new form and purpose,” adds Giovanni. The result is a unique series of bowls and whimsical objets which truly bring to life the quality, tactility and vibrancy of the mouthblown craftsmanship by Baroncelli’s team of Murano-based artisans. “They’re all slightly different, working well together as a family but each one special on its own,” says Bethan.

Together, Bethan and Giovanni have created a new collection of lights and accessories which will bring a “playful lightness to any space,” says Bethan, as well as connecting to the “honesty of the material and the making process which is so important in everything I do.”