Yemi Awosile is a London based textile and material Designer. The heart of her work explores material identity and tradition materials with social significance and strong links to the environment. Cork is one of does.
How you find the cork?
I found information on the internet and with the help of Amorim and APCOR. I couldn’t find any books about cork.
Photo: Cork Textile Products by Yemi Awosile
How born this desire to work with cork?
Before I discovered cork, I worked with hard leathers. I’m interested in sustainability and natural materials. Three years ago, I came across a cork in a materials library. Someone had mentioned that it was sustainable but my knowledge was very limited. I only associated cork with wine stoppers and notice boards. After some research, I knew that I would definitely work with cork.
I was amazed by the pictures I found of the harvesting of cork bark and by the length of time needed to create a wine stopper. I was also shocked by its diversity and useful properties. When I shared this with other people I found that their knowledge was also very limited. In the UK, cork was very popular within interior design until the 1970’s, but I had not seen this.
During the first year of my MA, I proposed a research trip to Portugal, and with the support of the college I won a travel bursary which enabled me to spend a month in the heart land of cork production. I saw the harvesting close up and meet with local producers and manufacturers. I was surprised to see that the trees were not harmed during harvesting. Coming from a busy city, I was especially blown away by the power of nature and by the way that the Portuguese had learned to harness this valuable resource without damaging the environment.
What are the cork main qualities as a raw material? And how are they import to your work?
The textile industry is responsible for producing a lot of harmful waste. It is important to know that the material I use comes from a safe and renewable resource. It is more important than ever for designers to try to incorporate this into their work as we are living in a time where nature has been misused and we are experiencing climate change.
I like the fact that the more cork we harvest, the more CO2 we absorb from the atmosphere; and at the same time, we cannot over consume it like most other resources due to the strict nine harvesting rule. Plus it helps to preserve its natural habitat. Other industries could learn a lot from this.
Cork is an exciting material to work with because it is flexible, light, quiet, soft, all useful qualities for a textile designer.
How many years are you working with cork?
18months. I developed an interest in cork whilst studying at the Royal College of Art in the first year of my MA.
What kind of products you develop? And how much they could cost?
I have developed upholstery fabric for interior design and fashion. I am still at the early stage of development. So at the moment it is very high end bespoke.
What projects are you involved? Did you win any award with them?
It is possible to refer three projects:
1. Whilst in Portugal I met Portuguese Designer Ana Mestre and organizer of the Dutch Design Cork Event at Delft University. I took part in this event and was a joint winner with three other groups.
2. I took part in the 2008 Valpak recycle-more Awards. This sustainability award was open the students. It was designed to address the impact of insatiable demand through eco-design. The point of this award was to reduce, society’s carbon footprint through design. I won came second. Is it possible to find more information on this link: http://www.valpak.co.uk/nav/page2052.aspx
3. After graduating I became the Royal College of Arts first materials research fellow. This is supported by the London Design Festival. This is a nine month fellowship which requires me to continue my work with cork.
What are your plans for the future?
The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance between England and Portugal is the oldest alliance in the world. It was signed in 1373 and is still in force today. I am looking for investment to set up a working studio, cork information center and material library to develop and represent cork in London.
I want to expand on my current line to, make it more accessible through a wider range of accessories.
· 2002 - Art Foundation - Central Saint Martin’s College of Art
· 2003/06 - Degree in Textile Design - Chelsea College of Art and Design
· 2006/08 -
· Living Proof, London Design Festival
· Design Cork for Future Innovation, Lisbon, Portugal
· Global Cities, in collaboration with British architect Nigel Coats at the Tate Modern, London
· 2nd Prize - Valpak Sustainability Award
· Joint Winner – Dutch Design Cork Event
· Winner of the Marianne Straub Travel Prize
Her work has featured on tree hugger.com (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/10/new-designs-for-cork-recycled-plastic.php).
Her website is www.yemiawosile.co.uk .