Change From Within: Using Textile Art to Challenge the Textile Industry
Artist: Vanessa Barragão
Words: Samantha Shaw
Vanessa Barragão is a fiber and textile artist who integrates artisanal techniques, wasted yarns, and environmental advocacy into her process. She was born and raised in Albufeira, Portugal, studied her Master’s in Fashion and Textiles Design in Lisbon, and now runs her own design studio in Porto, the textile hub of the nation. Growing up next to the sea, you’ll find much of Vanessa’s work is inspired by nature.
Working anywhere from 15cm to 450cm in length, Vanessa creates intricate ecosystems of colour and texture that immediately draw you in. The layered fringes and clusters of bubbly coral feel lively and fun, and you can effortlessly imagine them swaying deep beneath the ocean’s surface. Though playful, Vanessa’s work urges us to reflect on the well-being of our planet, and how our actions impact vulnerable ecosystems. “Ever since I began educating myself about the nature of coral reefs and the importance of such ecosystems, the more I realized I should dedicate my textile work to raising awareness of the vast loss of this fascinating species.”
The textile industry is one of the worst polluters on the planet, feeding contaminated water, air, and waste, back into the environment daily. In order to minimize her own footprint, Vanessa uses upcycled materials, personally collected and cleaned from the deadstock of local factories. Visually, her work pulls cues from the sea to abstractly illustrate environmental degradation. “My goal is to give a shocking contrast between the colourful and the colourless. While the former means life, the latter represents the coral’s bleached effect, and therefore its death.”
I love that about Vanessa’s work; beyond the obvious aesthetic allure is a poignant reminder to be mindful of your footprint, and to protect the planet.