Vanessa Barragão, textile artist from Portugal. Photo © Ruben Guerreiro
1.Tell us what you do and your beginnings.
I realized my passion for handmade textiles during my fashion design course. After finishing it, I decided to focus entirely in textiles instead of garments. I started developing my work at home, while I browsed for work in the area. I eventually started working in a rugs factory up in the north of Portugal, where I learnt more about the textile business and new techniques to apply into my pieces, that I never stopped working on.
Through time, I started receiving a bigger flow of commissions. Space was running short at home, which eventually led me to open my own studio, in Porto. That way, I was also able to source more discarded wool from local factories and store it and to develop big scale artworks!
2.What does your work aim to say?
I intend to pass quite a few messages with my works… the most important and that I’m more passionate about is how urgent is the need to change some of our daily actions and routines, raising awareness to it and to how we should be more thoughtful about the harmful impact some of our habits may cause on our environment have and of course, the importance of preserving local crafts, bringing back ancestral techniques, handmade manufacturing processes, and of course, upcycling for a healthier planet.
If your craft allows it, upcycle!! It’s not only the most eco friendly way to create but the most cost effective as well, which is also a great tip for anyone starting!
3.Where do you find inspiration for your art?
I find inspiration in nature, the places I visit and the ones I traveled to in the past. Every year, I like to spend two or three weeks traveling to an area surrounded by nature, totally disconnected from technology, so I can turn off and be completely present and connected with nature, trying to understand what it speaks for me.
This is how I get inspired for future artworks. The coral reefs and the ocean were my main inspiration until now, maybe because I grew up at the seaside, where the ocean is a constant. The coral reefs were the most impressive thing I ever saw, and they inspired me so much. I used to travel a lot with my family during my childhood. Seeing the colors fading away year by year on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea was probably, the main inspiration for my creations once I started university.
4.Could you give us some insight into your creative process?
The process starts with a message I want to pass to the community to help people conceptualize and improve their actions. Then I start creating. First, I outline the shape of the canvas and then select the colors, among the many yarns and fibers I have been collecting over time.
I don’t usually draw since I like freedom during my creation process, so that the flow and gradients grow in the tapestry almost naturally. It varies based on the mood of the day… like a way of expression and meditation.
5.What are your future projects?
I have started working with a couple of new galleries, one I cannot disclose yet but the other is a new gallery in downtown Shanghai- CoBrA Gallery. Both have challenged me to create new artworks and collections together with them, which is very exciting!
Besides those two, I have also been working with Galeria Casa Cuadrada, who always give me the opportunity to create my most colorful and eccentric works! I am also working very hard on a solo exhibition that I hope to take to several museums around the world!
Vanessa Barragão (Albufeira, 1992) is a Portuguese artist who uses ecological weaving techniques to create handcrafted works of art. Tapestries and carpets are made with industrial waste materials, and each work is entirely handmade with embroidery, macrame and crochet. Who is her work team? It is made up of almost all of her family: sister, mother, aunt, grandfather… who help her to produce every single work.
Among the series of her works, the Coral Garden installation is a large tapestry that reproduces the progressive whitening of coral reefs due to pollution and rising water temperatures. Vanessa Barragão lives and works in Porto.