Rooted in nature
A natural affinity, part two
For the second half of their two-part conversation, Baea founder, Adah Chan, and Design Director Catherine Reeves, continue their discussion around nature, design and the things that inspire them.
Having previously chatted with Catherine about her own relationship with the natural world and its influence on Baea, it’s now Adah’s turn to ask the questions…
Adah: I wanted to first ask you about your talent for taking the beautiful details we see all around us in nature and replicating them in our designs. How do you do it?
Catherine: I love observing things in nature and seeing how they all connect and work together. My eyes are constantly drawn to patterns and textures. The other day I was walking through my local parkland when the shadows of branches and leaves started dancing in front of me. I must have stood there for a good few minutes, just observing them and thinking. I really love when inspiration just creeps up on you!
On a recent trip to Namibia I was taken aback by the ever-changing landscape, from cityscape to open plain, thick bushland to winding rivers and finally the desert. One minute we were navigating deep sand tracks, then the next, bumping over deep corrugations or fording flash floods. It definitely got my mind racing about how I might bring this inspiration to future Baea collections.
A: When you’re designing homeware, is there something in particular you’re trying to achieve? How do you know you’re on track to creating something fully realised?
C: For me, creating something beautiful can take many forms. Sometimes this can be about closely depicting reality, or alternatively it might be a more abstract interpretation, such as our Rocks design.
I would say I am an extremely hands-on and visual designer. I like to map out my designs lifesize by laying ribbon on a plain duvet cover on a bed. What I love about this is the ability to snap a picture and then straight away see the scale of the design and aesthetically what works and what doesn’t. I can change shapes quickly and I often find something I didn’t know I was looking for. I may look a little silly climbing on a chair to take a picture of my latest design, but it works for me.
A: You asked me before about my favourite place in nature. So tell me, what’s yours?
C: For me this is an easy one, I was extremely lucky to grow up in the beautiful Cotswolds in the south-west of the UK, where the great outdoors is always on your doorstep.
I love observing things in nature and seeing how they all connect and work together. My eyes are constantly drawn to patterns and textures.
For my two younger sisters and I, our childhood was full of adventures in the woods, things like the early morning breakfast picnics my mum would take us on. Whatever the weather, we went outside to play and walk the dogs. When it rained we would see who could get the wettest by jumping in the biggest puddles. In the winter we took flasks of hot chocolate out with us and drank them on frosty tree stumps. And in the summer months we would jump from rope swings into the stream.
Nowadays I am lucky if I can visit a handful of times a year, but when I do I’m always sure to make time for one of my favourite walks. I can’t wait to bring my own children back to where I grew up and show them a taste of my childhood.
A: I’m so pleased to have you on board at Baea. What do you hope for most for this new company?
C: Thank you! I feel so proud to have been a part of Baea right from the beginning. I love that we’ve been able to create a brand with such strong foundations in terms of culture and ethos. My dream is that one day Baea's journey will inspire new businesses to follow in our footsteps and continue to push for a greener, more sustainable world.
A: You’d already had such an interesting life and career before Baea. I’d love to hear more about that, and also, did it inform the work you’re doing now?
C: Prior to Baea I worked at Marks & Spencer and Designers Guild. Both were great for my education in the business side of the textiles industry and involved plenty of time spent in showrooms and exhibition spaces, allowing me to see interior spaces come to life.
I love traveling, and have been lucky enough to spend time working in Rajasthan, India, with traditional block printers. I think that’s where my passion for craft, sustainability and natural materials really galvanised.
A: We talk about sustainability a lot and have acknowledged that it’s become a bit of a buzzword. Why is it still important to be having this conversation — what does it mean to you?
C: I have always believed in quality and buying things to last. With my wardrobe, household items and furniture, I try to keep to a limited selection of items I really love and cherish, mixed with second hand items and select pieces from brands that I believe to share a similar ethos to me — all amazing quality and built to last. Baea plays a part in not adding to the world's waste problems by offering items of great quality, design made from natural materials that people can cherish for a long time.
In case you missed it, you can catch up on the first part of Catherine and Adah’s discussion here. And be sure to check our Journal again soon — we’ll shortly be posting the first in a regular series called Living with Nature in which we meet Maddalena Forcella, the artist behind Mexico-based Madda Studio — makers of our finely crafted Nuno cushions and throws..