Vanessa Barragão is an artist from Portugal. She was born in the seaside, in a place called Albufeira. Growing up close to her family, near the ocean and often the countryside, her thoughts, vision and passions were heavily inspired by these environments and helped to create beautiful organic tapestries. We are bringing you the interview with Vanessa about her art, inspirations and way of working.
Hello Vanessa, have you been interested in art since your childhood or you started it later?
Ever since I can remember actually! I loved to draw, crochet and create dresses for my dolls when I was young.
What technique amongst those you mentioned did you try first and when?
Crocheting. It was the first technique I learnt so I must have been around 6 years old. My grandmothers passed it on to me and it was their way of keeping me busy during school breaks.
What material do you use to create your art and where do you get it from? Is it your own production?
All my materials are recycled and/or upcycled. The main material I apply to my artworks are textile wastes. I source them myself from textile factories in the north of Portugal, where the national industry core is. These wastes are no good for factories and they usually just sit in their storage rooms, taking up a lot of space, before they eventually get destroyed. Most wastes I collect are wool and tencel fibers.
What is the main idea behind your artwork?
The idea and mission with my artwork is to raise awareness to the need of maintaining artisanal methods of production in order to keep ancestral traditions alive and show how important recycling and upcycling really is for our oceans and planet’s health. There are so many wastes and discarded materials that can actually be applied into an artist’s work.
Inspiration from nature is obvious at first glance. Are you inspired by the beauties of Portugal or do you have other favourite places?
I’m mainly inspired by the ocean which has been a constant in my life. But I must say I’m inspired by nature from all over the world, especially by coral reefs.
What way do you think about colours and their combinations? Are you inspired by nature as well?
Yes! I love using colour and I’m mostly inspired by the color combinations found at healthy coral reef environments but I also take inspiration from thoughts I come with while admiring the countryside, flowers and the diversity of textures found above sea level.
You studied fashion design in Lisbon, which is a dream of many people. Why did you decide to study it and what did you like the most?
It had always been a dream to study fashion design! Maybe ever since I started making clothes from my dolls. I love to study for example trends, the methodologies behind creating a project and fabric construction.
You decided to end your journey in the fashion industry and to go in a slightly different direction, didn't you?
While taking my masters degree in Fashion Design I realized that I did not identify myself with the whole fashion environment and I became aware of how pollutant and wasteful the industry behind fashion is, so I decided to go in a different direction.
By the way, what do you think about fashion chains?
I’m not a fan. I am not into fast fashion once again due to the waste they produce with their low quality materials. I’m really into vintage clothing stores and brands with a message of sustainability and conscious consumption.
Have you ever considered making your own clothes?
Yes! I made clothes before I started making tapestries actually. I dyed the fabrics myself and the brand was called Tingi.
After completing your master's degree, you moved to Porto, where you worked in the textile industry. What kind of work was it?
I moved to Porto to work at an artisanal rugs factory as a textile designer and from working at the factory, I learnt a lot about the rugs and tapestries business model, production methods and I also acquired new skills and techniques.
In 2018, you opened your own studio in Porto. Why did you decide to do that?
While working at the factory, I had already started my own tapestries project and from 2018 the number of commissions I received became more and more significant which made me feel like I needed an atelier and to focus full time on producing them.
We have noticed on your website that you have your own production team. Can you tell us more about it?
Yes! I am lucky to have my sister Telma working with me full time, as well as an assistant Catarina.
Do you plan to expand your company in the future? Whether to get new employees or studying in some other city?
My work has grown very organically through time, so yes, I do intend to grow myself as an artist and the studio as a whole.