Louise Honey is 25 years old from Devon (UK). She studied Fashion and Textile Design at Plymouth College of Art and Sportswear Design later on. She worked for Finisterre and is now working as a Content Creator at Flatspot. Thanks to the Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs project, she has just come back from a week of residency in Santo Tirso (Portugal), partner of this project. Louise would like to become a sustainable design consultant, specialising within the fashion and sportswear industry. Her ambition is not just to tackle the current ethical problems within global industry, but also to shape the future.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
I would not call myself an artist per se, but more a researcher who is looking to constantly learn and better understand different areas of design, production and the life cycle of an item. I enjoy collating images and information whilst learning more about history, how we form relationships with what we own and an object’s journey of becoming more than its original worth. I feel it is important to encourage people to consider the items they acquire, to limit waste and to increase the personal value of them.
How we design our lives, how we want to present ourselves and the impact belongings have on our daily lives and the planet is of real interest to me. I am currently trying to educate myself on circular design which offers solutions for the current environmental issues we are facing, whilst also proving how we should be considering every step of an items life, how we can make better use of materials, utilise specialists during the design process and educate others on developing a longer lasting connection with what we own.
What or who are your influences and why do you focus on sustainability?
I am influenced by small businesses and entrepreneurs, particularly individuals who are trying to make positive changes within the use of new processes and materials, whilst also being appreciative of traditional craft to keep this element alive. There is a strong community of creatives where I studied for my BA in Falmouth, Cornwall. People here are actually doing this and making it work in a rural area – I love discovering teams of people working to make things happen outside of major cities such as Falmouth, where groups and individuals are choosing to live their lives differently at a slower pace. Conversely, I really enjoy seeing developments and innovation within major cities. Anyone who shares a vision of a more sustainability based future is really inspiring to me – for example Lidewij Edelkoort, the Ellen McCarther foundation and any vintage clothing fanatics!
I like to remind myself that sustainability is more than just a recycled material or something new made from something old, it is more about having an appreciation and understanding of design whatever its age. I was raised attending makers markets and art fairs where you could meet the person who designed and made the product, and I think seeing their ideas and inspirations has really shaped my career path and my interests. I am very emotionally driven by purchases and I like learning more about how others connect with what they select, how marketing and visual merchandising effects this, and how dramatically our habits have changed in recent years.
The fact that sustainability affects everything – it is not objects or nice things, it is a way a building is made, a way a road is designed, social systems etc. – and the time pressure we are facing makes it a main focus for me. It can feel overwhelming at times but I think it is a positive incentive to see how innovation on both small and large scales connects us globally, which is often wonderful to witness.
What do you hope to achieve in the future with your practice?
Gathering or creating a knowledge bank relating to sustainable, durable designs is my ultimate goal so that I can advise and support like-minded people and convert others! I would like to be able to assist in the making of products and help others to design and produce things in a conscious way. This could be by recommending a material, creating a visual identity for a company or by sharing my knowledge of up and coming or developing innovations. I want to feel positive towards the future of design, traditional skills and the lives of makers rather than feeling as though we are draining resources. I would love to learn more about historic craft from different cultures and just continue to absorb everything I can with an aim of helping others alongside my own creative projects.
What motivated you to apply for the residency?
The opportunity to learn new things, travel and make new connections. Santo Tirso was not an area I was familiar with, but I knew it had a rich textile history. I wanted to witness the starting process of fabric production to better understand the challenges of introducing more sustainable systems, what the industry is already doing and to identify any preconceptions or potential challenges, whilst also learning about skills that could support my ethos.
The fact that opportunities like this don’t arise too often was a major bonus and I am progressively piecing together useful learning experiences that are helping to shape my career.
What was the highlight of your time there?
Like all the AYCH events I have attended, I met a wonderful international team during my time away. In Portugal this included participants from Porto, Brazil and Poland who are working on some really exciting projects within 3D printing, detailed hand embellishment and furniture design. The host Fábrica Santo Thyrso team taught us about the history of Santo Tirso and the importance of textile production in the area, from a tour of the MIEC to seeing the oldest factory Fábrica de Fiação e Tecidos do Rio Vizela. We attended seminars by Joana Cunha and Rita Matos who shared their rich knowledge in trends, branding and communication which was really interesting to me. On our final day we visited the mountains overlooking Santo Tirso which was a real treat, and one of the participants Valeria has grown up in Porto and acted as our personal tour guide which gave us a real insight into the cities.
How do you think it might affect your practise in the future?
It has given me a greater understanding of traditional processes and the integration of modern technology. I have improved my understanding of how it can be a slow process of change when it comes to introducing new innovations and how they might not always be necessary – it could be a case of appreciating the heritage of craft more and promoting ways to have younger people interested in continuing the history of a technique that sustains the heritage of different communities. I think seeing processes away from the UK is always interesting and the realisation of how much is happening within each company is really eye opening – from spinning on machines that are over fifty years old to performance fabric testing and textile design. It reminded me to stay open minded and absorb everything I can, to appreciate specialities within different countries and to stay excited about the future. During one of our seminars we were introduced to Bruel wool which is made in a certain region of Northern Portugal. I would like to visit the original factory one day and to improve my language skills so that I can ask more questions!
How beneficial have you found your relationship with AYCH and the support and opportunities it offers?
Extremely. Since joining the AYCH team I have been exposed to a range of new opportunities, friendships and connections I would not have otherwise made. As an alumni of PCA, I remember the dedication and support from the college whilst I was studying for my BTEC and to have an opportunity to be connected again was very appealing to me, especially having witnessed the amount of ongoing development PCA has achieved since I was last a part of its student community.
I am very grateful to AYCH for enabling me to become more aware (and actively involved) of the possibilities available and the impact we can each have within the future of design and sustainability. The project has allowed me to reignite my enthusiasm for more sustainable approaches by raising my consciousness of the amount of young people working towards a better future and the importance of collaboration and skill sharing. The AYCH team has been very supportive of individual aspirations from a variety of design backgrounds. I am kept up to date with networking, events, workshops and other opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of and there is a real enthusiasm behind the team, which I first experienced during the Creative Jam event in Gijón. I feel very lucky to have been selected and to have their support and opportunities such as my residency in Porto available.