Wood was always around when I was growing up. My paternal grandfather was Scottish and was a research forester. His job was to go and collect seeds from native plants, then grow them in a nursery and distribute them around the country. Many trees had been cutdown in the war, and after doing this in Scottish woodlands he moved to Wales to do the same thing – that’s how my family ended up there.
He loved the material and when he retired he would always be carving something. He must have noticed how interested I was in it because one year he gave me this carved oak elephant for my birthday. I was somewhere between 12 and 15, I think. He painted it with a gold finish, which was really sweet because I love gold – although it’s a bit worn now as I’ve had it for so long.
He also carved me an owl, and when I was 16, he made me a coffee table with a beautiful pattern carved on the top and my name inscribed underneath. I’ve had a go at whittling but sadly the woodcarving skills haven’t been passed down to me, although my dad is really good at it – his nickname is Woody because he’s always making things from wood.I think growing up around that fostered a love of natural materials in me at an early age, especially timbers.
The elephant has always stayed with me, even when I moved to London for university and through seven house moves in 10 years! Now it lives on my sideboard next to all my photos – it’s part of the furniture. bethangray.com