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A coral reef, upcycled

Swatches | May 1, 2019 | By:

A mix of upcycled wool, cotton and lyocell, Coral Garden is a call to action to the textile industry to use more sustainable practices. Photos: Vanessa Barragão.

Textile artist Vanessa Barragão grew up in the seaside town of Albufeira, Portugal. s a designer she expresses her love of the ocean in the stunning art installation, Coral Garden

Barragão is concerned with the polluting effects of the textile industry on the environment—particularly on delicate coral reefs. The energy used in mass textile production and the large amount of waste produced has harmful effects across the natural world. It is particularly detrimental to the oceans, which absorb 90 percent of atmospheric pollution. As coral reefs, living and complex natural organisms, are irrevocably destroyed, numerous marine species that live within their habitat are at risk.

Coral Garden was created using upcycling methods to demonstrate what can be achieved by cleaning and reusing materials that would have been marked for waste or recycling. The materials came from the deadstock of an artisanal rug factory in Beiriz, Portugal. Barragão created the tapestry using ancestral and handmade techniques including latch hook, hand-tuft, embroidery, felt and crochet.

The elaborate artwork features a textured motif of coral in hues ranging from deep jewel tones to shades of brown, taupe and white, signifying what happens to coral when the oceans warm, causing coral to expel living algae. The result is mass bleaching, a consequence that is endangering coral reefs worldwide, including the Great Barrier Reef. For more information, visit

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