Textile industry waste is transformed into coral-inspired wall hangings and rugs by Portuguese fibre artist, Vanessa Barragão. Using age-old techniques and discarded materials, the artist weaves richly textured seascapes, upcycled gems which celebrate biodiversity and call for a mindset change in our relationship with the environment.
The sea has always been a source of inspiration for Barragão, who was born in Albuferia, on the Portuguese coast. As a child, she took holidays in the Caribbean with her family and remembers being awe-struck at seeing coral reef for the first time. She learned traditional handcrafts from her grandmothers, with drawing and crochet her earliest passions, and went on to study Fashion and Textile Design at Lisbon University.
After completing her master’s, Barragão opted to focus on textiles and handcrafting. She moved to Porto in 2014, dividing her time between personal projects and a design role for an artisan rug producer. Conscious of the fashion industry’s role as a major pollutant, she increasingly centred her practice on sustainable materials sourcing: waste fibres from Portuguese textile factories are her raw materials.
Dedicated full-time to her studio practice since 2018, Barragão crafts tapestries using latch hook, crochet, felt, weaving, embroidery and macramé. Members of her family, including her grandparents, craft sections of her three-dimensional fibre reefs. Stark contrasts between bright, underwater tones and the bleached white of dead coral illustrate the environmental concerns that underpin Barragão’s work.
Barragão has participated in art fairs across the globe including Wynwood Art and Urvanity Art in Miami, Barcú Art Fair in Colombia and Design em São Bento, Lisbon. Commissioned by Kew Gardens, she created a world map, The Botanical Tapestry, for Heathrow Airport London and has received numerous awards including Young Entrepreneur at the Premios Mercurio 2019 and WEF Young Innovator for a Better World, 2018.