Berdoulat shares its name with an 18th century farm house in South West France, the childhood home of its founder Patrick Williams. His parents bought the house as a ruin when he was in the womb and gradually restored it over twenty years. All members of the family worked on the place together, and as young children Patrick and his siblings earned their pocket money applying lime render, or cleaning floor tiles salvaged from nearby demolition sites in the nick of time - stacked in to an old Peugeot the night before bulldozers arrived. The cement mixer was their 5am alarm clock, and often when they meet for a family gathering impersonations of the mixer ensue.
The thought and process involved in this venture rubbed off on Patrick who gained a passion for buildings, furniture, objects and decoration. He graduated with a BA Hons in Fine Art from Oxford University in 2003 and has since then dedicated his time to this business. He is on The SPAB Committee for Bath & Bristol, a member of The Georgian Group and The Victorian Society, and Berdoulat is proud to feature in the The House & Garden Top 100 Interior Designers list.
Neri was born in Bulgaria, and moved to Istanbul aged four, where like her husband, she too grew up amid her parents' home-building antics, and was equally involved in the process. In her early twenties she moved to London to study Fine Art Photography at London College of Communication, developing all the while a keen eye for detail, observing beauty in the unexpected.
Their eldest, Wren (photo: Paul Whitbread)
Their youngest, Bonnie (photo: Paul Whitbread)
On meeting, they realised they shared an appreciation for a way of life with simplicity at its core, and had a common dream of one day living above their own shop, selling beautiful things. Over the last few years, together they have developed a collection of furniture, kitchenwares, tablewares, and decorative items. Spring 2021 will see the launch of the physical Berdoulat shop, following the completion of an ongoing restoration by Berdoulat of a magnificent building in central Bath, which also houses their studio, and is now home to them, along with daughters Wren and Bonnie, and doggy Elizabeth.
Each product in the collection is unique to Berdoulat: a collaboration with local artisans, the vast majority of whom are based within an hour's drive of the studio. Most take inspiration from historic kitchens and traditions from the 18th & 19th century, sometimes with twists of France and Turkey. Patrick and Neri are passionate about each and every item, taking delight in meeting the makers, seeing the often magical spaces where they make their work, and relishing in the opportunity to learn about the various making processes.
For them, sourcing and manufacturing all of their products locally, and the use of natural and renewable materials wherever possible is of the utmost importance. With fifteen years of experience working on period buildings, and a life-long appreciation of historic fabric and design tradition, Berdoulat has a deep rooted belief in good design and quality in its execution resulting in heirloom pieces that stand the test of time, and will be passed down through generations.
Spring 2021 saw the launch of the physical Berdoulat shop, following the completion of a four year long restoration by Berdoulat of a magnificent building in central Bath, which also houses their studio, and is now home to them, along with daughters Wren and Bonnie, and doggy Elizabeth.
Jonathan Tibbs studied Fine Art at Falmouth College of Arts and then went on to specialise in furniture making at The Building Crafts College in London. He was selected to join the Worshipful Company of Carpenters in the City of London where he is now a freeman of the Guild.
Jonathan's knowledge and expertise have been invaluable in shaping the functionality, look and feel of Berdoulat's range of furniture, kitchenware and tableware products. He leads a dedicated team of highly skilled woodworkers from his Somerset workshop, which is in a converted chapel. Whilst the altar and pews are long gone, despite the din of the Wadkin lathe, there remains a wonderful sense of tranquility in the space.
This suits his general demeanor, which is calm and composed. The delight he takes in working with wood, and his overall approach to making really chimes with Berdoulat's ethos:
"I love transforming rough sawn planks of wood into furniture and objects that will develop a history of their own and be enjoyed for years to come".
Jonathan in his workshop (photo: Paul Whitbread)
Florence at Berdoulat HQ (photo: Paul Whitbread)
Florence Saumarez studied architecture at Edinburgh University before setting up her own furniture business making bespoke items to her own designs. A few years ago she discovered the magical art of marbling, and wood dust was replaced by paint splashes. “It is impossible not to be hooked by the intricacy and spontaneity in the execution of marbled paper. People are familiar with it via endpapers in books, but don’t often connect with how it is actually done, so there is a wonderful air of mystery that surrounds this rare craft. It is apt, given Neri’s background, that marbling in Europe originated from Turkey and continues to play a large part in their present culture. I love applying this ancient tradition to products that appeal to our contemporary aesthetic. Each sheet captures a moment in time and is unique"
Despite having thus focused her creative output, her knowledge of and appreciation for beautifully made furniture and products are valuable strings in her bow when it comes to collaborating with Berdoulat.
She also happens to be a neighbour of Patrick and Neri's, living and working just a few doors down the road from them. The Borracha paper was developed during lock down, which saw an hilarious exchange of samples left in the tent of the Berdoulat cargo bike outside the back door of the studio. How to do business without physical contact - Florence left a sample with notes scribbled on it, then texted “you have bike mail”, whereupon Patrick and Neri reviewed the sample, scribbled some more, and placed it back in the tent for Florence to collect the following day.
Berdoulat's Borracha paper is now made by Al Lewis, another friend of the family, in nearby Tisbury, at Compton Marbling, the oldest paper marbling company in Great Britain.
Berdoulat's linen is woven for them by the great masters of the art at Thomas Ferguson.
Thomas Ferguson is synonymous with high quality linen and is widely acknowledged as the finest linen Jacquard weaver in the world. This reputation for quality developed through many generations of dedication and skill owes much to the Company's rich heritage. Founded in 1854 by Thomas Ferguson, an already established linen weaver, the Company has woven Irish Linen for over 160 years.
For Patrick and Neri, working with the wonderful, highly skilled and knowledgable team at Fergusons has been a real treat. They are all so passionate about what they do, take huge pride in the fantastic linen they produce, and have an acute eye for detail.
The first Berdoulat fabric pattern "Home" (an interlocking Berdoulat logo motif) was created collaboratively, with Patrick and Neri's initial design translated in to a weave by Donna Campbell and woven by Garry Reid. Whilst this fabric is available on the roll by the metre and is suitable for upholstery and curtain making, it's also woven at a lower "pick rate" (density) to suit the tea towels and napkins in the Berdoulat range of products - resulting in better absorption, and linen that's kinder to the touch. There were several "lip tests" carried out!
Garry Reid at the loom, weaving Berdoulat's Home linen
Paul in the studio
Paul Jessop is an internationally renowned very natural Potter. Watching him work at his potters wheel the pots seem to flow effortlessly from his fingertips. Having started at the tender age of 12 “it just felt so natural to me” he says. The inspiration for his pots comes directly from the old West Country potteries that made pots for use in everyday life. He uses as few materials as possible all of which are locally sourced just as the old potteries would have done. Of course the world has changed immeasurably since those days, but it’s the pure simplicity of his pots that make them a joy to use in the modern kitchen.
Paul’s clear eye for a natural form lends itself perfectly to the simple qualities of traditional West Country Slipware. A single finger swipe on the rim of a Dairy bowl is a clear sign that behind every handcrafted pot is the heartbeat of the potter who made it:
"My pottery not only functions well it has soul, from the occasional finger or thumb print in the side of the pot or the dribble of slip down the side of a dairy bowl, these are the living breathing characteristics of each pot's own story.
"When Patrick and Neri met him in his beautiful Somerset studio, there was an instant realization that they all shared a common approach to making, and enjoyed the same elements in clay work. They collaborated on several pieces inspired by traditional French pottery and so the Cassaigne range of cookware was born. Named after the great kitchen at Château de Cassaigne, one of Patrick and Neri's favourite places, the collection includes a variety of practical and decorative pieces, with their design rooted in traditions of historic cookware, brought to life via a range of glazes developed especially for Berdoulat by Paul.
Lydia Hardwick graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2013. She collaborated and exhibited with architect collective Assemble on their 2015 Turner Prize winning project, Granby Workshops. In 2016 the Victoria and Albert Museum purchased one of her designs for their permanent collection.
Primarily working with clay, her practice spans across the fields of art and design. From tableware to densely patterned pots, her work appeals to the viewer's visceral senses. Using surface techniques, such as inlaying and slip decorating, her working methods are meditative and intuitive, developed through an understanding of materials gained over years of working with clay.
She is drawn to patterns and motifs found within indigenous craft objects and textiles, made by communities that attribute great expressive power to visual things. Intrigued by the mysterious formal vocabulary of folk geometry, she combines a myriad of making traditions with influences from European art and design to produce work that aims to reconnect us to an ancient appreciation of line, surface, tone and texture as presences unto themselves.
When Patrick and Neri first saw her work, they were drawn to these familiar patterns, native to many a Turkish carpet. They loved Lydia's inlay technique, which is reminiscent of ancient encaustic tile making, and felt she'd be the perfect person to work with when designing their meat plate - a modern (yet somehow ancient) interpretation of the Burleighware plates they collect.
Lydia in her studio (photo: William Cheshire)
Judy weaving away... (photo: Pauline Rook)
Judy Simmonds makes Berdoulat's range of beautiful woven willow baskets. She lives and works in the most idyllic setting, nestled in a valley, down winding sunken lanes in the neighbouring county of Devon. A 17th century thrashing barn houses stacks of carefully selected and sorted willow, some of which she grows herself.
"Nudging 120 carefully selected and soaked willow rods to a rhythmically precise pattern in an ever outwardly expanding curve over several uninterrupted hours is a new challenge every time, even after ten years of making."
The oldest basket weaving cooperative in France is within a village on the Loire. Here, over 160 years, the humidity of the troglodyte caves made Villaines-les-Rochers a basket making centre. Both David Drew, the British basket maker and French Master Norbert Fauré were there in 2010, producing the Périgord Spiral basket. Judy worked with the two of these greats of the basket weaving world on polishing the technique.
"Pursuing the spiral using both English willow (Dicky Meadows, Purpurea) and French (Helix, Alba) and adapting the form for the log baskets, coupled with the immediacy and intricacies of the bread basket makes for a balanced basket making life".