• Isabella Ji

Vanessa Barragão’s Special Coral Reef

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Vanessa Barragão, a Portuguese artist, uses recycled textile waste to handcraft ocean-inspired rugs and tapestries to address the huge scale at which the textile industry pollutes the ocean. “The textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world,” Barragão explains. The machinery used for the textile industry requires tons of energy and produces a lot of waste and disposable trash at the same time. The waste is extremely harmful for our planet and affects particularly the ocean, which absorbs 90% of the atmospheric pollution.

The chemicals and waste disposed into the ocean by the textile industry warms the ocean to the point that so many species get threatened, especially the corals, who sustain so many other creatures.

“These living and complex natural organisms [coral reefs] are the heart of an immense habitat of marine species which depend on one another to survive,” Vanessa Barragão says. “Without this pilar, a major part of sea life can become close to extinction which will ultimately affect us and many other living species.”

Barragão focuses on the artisanal technique and wasted yarns from the industry to produce textiles and artwork. She grew up near the ocean, so her connection to the ocean is the inspiration for her artwork. The deep ocean intrigues and fascinates Barragão but also scared her due to its immense darkness. Barragão thinks the coral reefs are the most impressive and diverse ecosystem on Earth and captivates the environments of coral reefs by cleverly combining craft and recycled materials.

When creating her work, Barragão tries to be as eco-friendly as possible. She not only uses recycled materials, but she also carefully produced everything by hand. Instead of using machinery to our her artwork together, Barragão  practices age-old techniques, such as knitting, embroidery, crochet, felting, hand-tufting, and latch hook. The result comprises of a vast range of textures and colors.

Coral Garden is an immersive installation from an artisanal rug factory’s deadstock supplies. The artwork explores the harmful effects of global warming particularly on coral reefs. On one side of the large textile wall is richly colored reef, while on the other side, is more muted color palette, visualizing the devastating effect of coral bleaching. 

Barragão hopes that her artwork will help raise awareness on environmental issues and that people will put effort towards improving our Earth’s heath. She states, “I truly think that an artist needs to be capable of uniting people towards a common goal.” Barragão believes that her efforts towards the right way to try to fight against this kind of negative mindset will not be unnoticed.


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