The tapestries of Vanessa Barragão

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do. 

Hi! I am a textile designer focusing on artisanal techniques and wasted yarns from the industry to create artworks.

My studio was founded in 2014 when I attended a Master degree at the Lisbon University in fashion and textiles design. There I developed my first wool yarn collection and tapestries through an ecological and artisanal process. Currently, I am based in Porto, the Northern region of Portugal where the nation’s textile industry core is located, and divide my time between collaborating as a textile designer for an artisanal rugs factory and running my studio.

Where are you from, and how has that impacted on the work you create?

I am from Albufeira, a famous seaside city in the South of Portugal. There, the ocean is one of the most important elements for the city’s development, and all of this influenced me as a local in protecting it. For me the ocean it’s a place full of inspiration, and my work is completely inspired by all the immense environments which inhabit there and the importance of the ocean preservation is the main goal of all my works.

When did you discover that you want to work with textil this way?

Since I was still a child, I’ve always loved to explore different kind of artisanal techniques. I usually say that I come from a family of artists, since a major part of my family is skillful and creative somehow. For example, my grandmothers and my mother  are knitters and do a lot of crochet.

Besides that, and since my parents always gave me loads of support to pursue my path, I developed my knowledge on artisanal textile techniques over time. When I was doing my Fashion Design master degree, I decided to explore the wool process for my thesis project, and I think that was when my artistic pratice and conceptual language started to take shape.

How would you describe your style?

My style is focused in mixing artisanal and ecological techniques to create my pieces inspired by nature, more specifically coral reefs and the seabed’s life. Besides that, I only use leftovers from the wool industry in order to properly upcycle this material which usually ends up in landfills. It is about keeping my “ecological footprint” the lowest possible while creating artworks which ultimate goal is to raise awareness on the fatal consequences of global warming specifically in coral reefs.

On your website, you write about your belief in an upcycling effort to fight harmful methods and mindsets. Could you elaborate?

The propose of my work is to raise awareness to the problems and consequences caused by pollution and global warming. To show this problematic I take visual inspiration from one of the most vital environments: coral reefs which are currently threatened. This living and complex natural organisms are the heart of an immense habitat of loads of marine species which depend on one another to survive. Without this pilar, a major part of sealife can become close to extinction which will ultimately affect us and the planet we call home.

The mass industry generates so much waste by producing unconsciously, turning itself into one of the main contributions to ocean degradation. My work speaks about all of this disruptive reality, and when I create a piece, I try to pass the message by using industry’s left overs and by applying artisanal and handmade techniques. Promoting an ecologic mindset is key in my process and I always report it in an attempt to maintain a cultural legacy when it comes to ancestral techniques and to give rise to the importance of upcycling so that people can feel inspired to create with conscience, contributing to the preservation of Earth.

Can you describe your creative process? Do you make a drawing before you start working with the materials? Or do you start and see what happens?

I usually don’t sketch. Before I start I decide the sizes, the shape and decide the colors I want to use. The creative process is the most incredible part, because always depends day by day. The ideas will come with the process and it’s always a surprise. When the piece was finished is when I feel it and when I really see the impact and how it interacts with us.

How does using waste materials shape your artistic process? What are the implications on the final works?

 Using waste materials can come with a few limitations but the truth is that the wool industry’s leftovers which I use are so diverse and in such quantity

that it never really defines the shape of my artistic process. The implications that it has are indeed the contribute for less industrial trash and the message

I’m trying to shout out with my artworks.

Talk us through some of the techniques you’ve used to create the artwork. 

I use several handmade techniques like latch hook, hand tuft, crochet, felt, basketry and macrame.

And the materials?

I believe in upcycling effort on an attempt to fight global warming and improve our Earth’s health. All the materials used come from the deadstock of several local factories which are first cleaned and then selected to be recycled and reused in my projects, in a way to inspire people to create and live with conscience on a daily basis for a better planet.