'Flamboyant' designer wins feature gallery spot
There was a time when Bethan Laura Wood became obsessed with whisks, from their twists of metal to their sheer "physicality".
They inspired her so much that, in her foundation year of study, she made a stool based on the kitchen utensil - an indication of her love affair with the everyday, which has contributed to her earning a cult following.
"It's kind of beautiful when you suddenly realise ... most of us will have a whisk in our home or have seen a whisk but if you look at it, it's doing so many interesting technical things," she told AAP.
"For me, I've always loved the hidden secrets that you can find in what you think is everyday if you stick with it, play with it or you take it apart."
Wood's unique work will be showcased at the National Gallery of Victoria from December after she was on Wednesday announced as the recipient of the 2023 MECCA and NGV Women in Design Commission.
Her installation will delve into the gendered history of education and learning, with gallery director Tony Ellwood hailing her as embracing "an artistic agenda fuelled by experimentation to create unique and flamboyant furniture, objects, textile and interior designs".
Wood's style is often described as maximalist but is layered with meaning. From her East London home, she points out glass work and a painting by contemporary female artists nestled among a wall full of eclectic works.
She isn't opposed to minimalism and sees it and maximalism as "two sides of the same coin".
"It's only natural when you feel very saturated, be it by maximalism or saturated by minimalism, to then yearn or look for something that's in response to it," Wood said.
"If we only ever stay in one place, then you can't really understand it because you have nothing of context to put it against.
"Maybe I'll make some more minimal work but maybe I won't. Let's see."
Not every piece of Wood's work has women as the headline theme but audiences could perceive it through a female-focused lens - especially when the materials she uses are historically linked to domestic spaces like laminate and Pyrex.
"I like that there are ways to read the work and if you want to, there's (that) universe that can open up," she said.
"But I also enjoy the works having different things that are all part of what makes our identity, in the same way that every woman is not just made up of being the woman."
Announced as the recipient of the commission on International Women's Day, Wood said the cause was not only relevant for the one day.
"I live 365 days a year, so I need to have space every day as does every woman," she said.
The MECCA and NGV commission is a five-year program, with one person awarded it each year, culminating in a major exhibition to showcase their bodies of work.
Wood is the second recipient of the female-focused commission.