18 Jun 2020
Cover Story - Vanessa Barragão



My name is Vanessa Barragão, I’m 27 years old and I'm from Albufeira, a seaside city in the South of Portugal. When I was a child, I used to watch my grandmother crocheting clothes and it motivates me to start making clothes for my dolls. I used waste fabrics to create clothes for dolls and I loved to do it. It influenced me to study fashion design, which I graduated and gained a master degree. During the master degree, I totally understood that this is not my passion, but it was an important way to discover what I really love to do. I love textiles and creating with my hands. The fashion industry is something that doesn’t fit the way I think and I just discovered it during my study. So I decided to explore more about textiles and start creating my own work, and do exactly what makes me happy. So, it was during my master degree in fashion design when I decided to explore more about the process before design. I started creating a collection of yarns, made with artisanal and ecological processes. Then I created my own textiles with these materials, so the tapestries and rugs came naturally afterwards.  I began developing more techniques in order to create all my handmade pieces, it's always been a meditative process as well. When I finished my master degree, I felt that I would like to learn more about textiles and handmade ancestral processes, so I decided to move to Porto where the industry core is located. I started working as a textile designer in the oldest rug factory in Portugal, Tapetes Beiriz. At the same time, I was still running my project. Working in the factory was not only very important, but actually an essential step. I learnt a lot about fibers and two new techniques: hand tuft and hand knotting. In here, I was able to understand more about the carpet business and discover how much waste the factories produce.


The  textile mass industry is one of the biggest sources of pollution in the world. All the machinery used requires tons of energy while producing a lot of wastes and disposable trash. It is extremely harmful for our planet and it affects all of its different natural environments, particularly the ocean which absorbs 90% of air pollution. Global warming is erasing one of the most vital environments, the coral reefs. These living and complex natural organisms are the heart of an immense habitat of marine species which rely on each other to survive. Without this pillar, a major part of marine life can become close to extinction which will ultimately affect us and many other living species.  My work focuses on this issue and how it is deeply affecting coral reef's environments. I believe in conscious production methods as an attempt to fight this negative mindset and improve our Earth's health. All the materials used come from the deadstock of a specific artisanal rug's factory in Beiriz, which is first cleaned and then selected to recycle and reuse in my projects. I tried to be as ecofriendly as possible in my work using ancestral and handmade techniques.



I believe that this question could have different answers, depending on the perspective.  For me, as an artist, I believe that artistic creation has a different purpose than general creation, massive creation, creation of decorative objects or objects other than art. Of course, there are decorative objects that are considered art. But I believe that an art object has a meaning or a message to convey and, for this reason, I think that this type of creation will be more linked to different themes or even to different social movements, one of which is environmentalism.

As an artist, I develop my pieces with a purpose: to awaken people's awareness and call for attention to what is happening, and the impact that our actions and behaviors have on nature and on our planet. And, even if I have pieces that are smaller and with a more decorative purpose, I always try to incorporate that message in them. Sometimes the smallest details and the most insignificant things can be very powerful and even make a difference.




I was born and raised in the south of Portugal, in a seaside town. The ocean was always super important for me and my soul. It’s like a medicine to my mental health. All of my works since I was a child were inspired by the nature and the ocean. When I saw the coral reefs for the first time, I was completely fascinated. 

I think my passion for the ocean landscapes were always growing since it always impressed me every time I went there. 
During my childhood, I used to travel a lot with my parents to the Caribe, when I saw coral reefs for the first time in Jamaica. It was so excited! This experience is still in my mind like a photograph. All the colors and existing lives there were the most impressive and beautiful thing I have ever seen since the undersea is totally different from where I come from. Year by year, we used to travel to this area of Caribbean Sea and we could notice that the degradation of coral reefs was getting more evidenced every time we visited this place. The bleaching corals and losing biodiversity made me very sad.

All the pollution and global warming problem have a negative impact on our natural environments and, consequently, on many animal species. The ocean is one of the affected ones. Islands of plastic is visible from the space, paradisiac beaches inside real nature environments are full of sand mixed with microplastics, dead whales are appearing in shores with their stomach full of plastics. The ocean is getting sick, warming up itself to the point that so many species are being threatened. The corals, which inhabit so many other creatures, are one of the most endangered ones.

We, humans, have to change our mindset and start finding ways to fight against this negative issue, in order to recover/rescue our planet. I believe that upcycling and handmade processes are important ways to create art and develop new products. This is where I focus in my art. This is my inspiration and the basic concept behind my textiles, and it is the way how I try to inspire people to change in order to help and improve our Earth's health.


Of course! This kind of initiative is always very important and helpful to the artists! In this way, we can reach out to more people around the world and show them our vision. In my perspective, I can share and show what I think about what is happening in the world, and possibly inspire people to be better to our planet. Besides, I can find out more about the others who may have a similar vision and message as I do, or even different. We can share, we can inspire, we can discover!

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