Carmen’s journey began in Spain, but her career has taken her across the globe, from Ireland to Germany, to the UK and The Philippines. She worked in both the design and manufacture of leather goods for many years before going to the Philippines to carry out further research into the development of products made from natural fibres, specifically sub-tropical fibres such as the banana and pineapple plants. A breakthrough came when she realised that she could make a non-woven textile, a fabric bonded together without knitting or weaving, from the long fibres found in pineapple leaves, in a similar way to felt. For a video of her work see here.
The culmination of her work resulted in the creation of Piñatex, a material she developed whilst working with the Design Centre Philippines making a unique natural and sustainable textile made from pineapple leaf fibres. The fibres are the by-product of the harvest, so no land, water, fertilisers or pesticides are used in their production making the whole system an ecological, economical and sound social proposition. Its potential is huge, as demonstrated during her PhD exhibition in 2014 which included shoe prototypes made by Camper and Puma and handbags by Ally Capellino. This versatile, strong and durable material is now being considered for use in the aviation industry, and is currently going through its first industrial production stage. Exciting times indeed!
One of the judges, Kay Politowicz, Professor Emeritus of Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art, said ‘Carmen’s work puts her at the forefront of 21st Century approaches to design. Her proven creative and organisational talents can transform pineapple-fibre waste streams, which she has identified as an exciting new raw ingredient for textile development. This material also has the potential to transform the economic lives of rural communities involved in the development and production. The potential applications are for beautiful and durable products, but without the ethical or cultural concerns associated with leather’.
Carmen’s artistic endeavours include receiving a Commended Award for the Sustain Show for the RCA in 2015, and she was one of the finalists for the highly prestigious Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards in October 2015.
Her plans for the fellowship includes further research on developing a 100% natural, bio-based base and top coat for the material alongside a more sustainable degumming process for the fibres. This would again come from an agricultural waste stream, making the material truly sustainable and fully durable. Other judges for the award were Dr Richard Johnston, Senior Lecturer in the Materials Research Centre, Swansea University, Designer Scarlet Oliver, and Joao Wilbert, Lead Creative Technologist at Google Creative Labs.
The Clothworkers’ Foundation is currently supporting a Fellowship in Materials Innovation. The Award aims to identify where the current shoots of enterprise are coming from in the UK, reflecting and encouraging new ways of thinking involving practitioners from different backgrounds involved in textiles and related material development. The Foundation was set up by The Clothworkers’ Company in 1977 with the aim of improving the lives of people and communities particularly those facing disadvantage. To date it has awarded grants of more than £100m.Website
The Arts Foundation £10,000 award is not a commission but to be used to pay for living and working expenses, allowing the artist, who must show a track record in the art form, breathing space in order to further their practice. The applicants are shortlisted from a longlist of UK-based artists nominated by experts across the country. The Arts Foundation was founded by an anonymous donation in 1993 and has since given over £1.6m to support artists from all walks of the arts. Previous award winners in Materials Innovation include: Sarat Babu (2015) and Julia Lohmann (2014). Press Release written by the Arts Foundation.
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