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Textiles (MA)

Bethany Voak

Bethany Voak is a textile designer born and raised in Jersey, Channel Islands. Working as a colour alchemist she brings together modern design with sustainable practices. She has a strong interest in researching and discovering new processes to find innovative solutions for current sustainable issues.


After gaining a distinction for foundation in art and design from Plymouth University she qualified with a first class honours degree from Norwich University of the Arts specialising in repeat screen printing. Bethany is currently studying for a Masters in Textiles at the Royal College of Art, London. 


She has exhibited her work in a number of locations including London, Norwich and most recently Jersey for the Skipton Big Ideas Wearable Art Exhibition.


Bethany has professional experience working with several international design companies. Bethany has worked for Vivienne Westwood within the Gold Label Studio, Alexander McQueen as a Special Projects Freelancer and most recently PriestmanGoode within their Colour, Material and Finish Department.


Through these experiences she has developed a unique understanding of the current innovations in the textile industry which she draws on for her current work.


Awards:

PriestmanGoode x RCA Colour Material Finish Designer - Winner 2021

“What needs to happen in order for there to be a crucial shift in how we value our materials?”


Voak’s work aims to tackle the issue of waste materials that are currently polluting the environment. She is specialising in the development of new materials that find potential in unwanted waste objects.


Voak’s personal experience has shaped her reasoning behind her project. Having grown up on Jersey, a small island in the Atlantic Ocean she has witnessed the increase in pollution, particularly plastics found around the island’s ecosystems.


“As a child I would go down to the beach and collect bits of drift wood, sea glass, limpet shells and other objects. Now I am collecting more synthetic objects like plastics. This concerns me because these materials can take hundreds of years to decompose, releasing microplastics which get ingested by wildlife.

 

In Beauport bay I remember swimming underwater looking across at a giant object. This I assumed was a plastic bag, but instead it was a huge jellyfish. This I believe is the moment I realised that synthetic materials were becoming the expected thing to see in the ocean rather than the living creatures that dwell there.”


These incongruous objects are becoming more commonplace in the coastal landscape, and begs the question whether future generations will be collecting synthetic materials from the landscape for years to come.


During the Covid-19 lockdown Voak started using waste materials that she found around her home. This sparked an interest in transformative design processes, changing the physicality of the materials through textures, colours and shapes. At a time of uncertainty, this project gives hope that these unwanted objects can become something that is beautiful and valued. She hopes this will shine a light on the sustainable issues we are facing today.


Using nature as her guide she has curated a unique tool kit which she uses to test, compare and develop new materials in order to shift their value in the current society.


Having a deep base knowledge in dye processes and the extraction of colour meant she could apply this knowledge to unexpected materials and surfaces. This usually involved risk taking and embracing the unknown.


“But why do we waste these materials so freely when they can last us over a lifetime?”


By continuing to develop these materials Voak hopes to show that these wasted objects can be so much more than a ‘throw away’ product.

Plastic packaging found at La Rocque beach in Jersey — This piece was found on a bed of seaweed laying next to a cuttle fish bone, a common object of sea debris. Both were washed up together on this beach. At a glance these objects look like they could be one and the same, however the difference in their origin and the life they have lead could not be more contrasting. These photographs show the similarity between natural and now commonly found synthetic materials that are contaminating our environments.
— A mixture of items found from the coast that have been weathered and worn by the ocean and a selection of material samples. In the future we may have moved far away from the oil based synthetic materials of today. However, because these materials do not decompose fully for hundreds of years will they remain clogging up the environment? What will happen next? Could we be mining materials that we currently waste today?
Natural Colour Extraction — A short film showing different processes for extracting colour from nature.

The idea of permanence of colour intrigues me. Within nature colours rarely if ever stay the same forever. It is therefore interesting that we value colour that never shifts. Currently the prospect of colour fading or changing from the original is viewed as a flaw. What if we thought the opposite? What if we embraced the change and viewed colour shifting as a new chapter? a new development in this objects life.