Creating sustainable and aesthetic work, Sissell Gustavsen is focused on materiality using various biodegradable fabrics and natural dyes. She seeks inspiration from nature and environment what is strongly seen within her textiles. Her work is now featured in the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK and in here you can find out more about the designer.
Being a textile designer, what inspired you to become specialised in print?
When I moved to London from Denmark, to study Textile Design at Central Saint Martins, I took an immediate interest in the print room. I was fascinated by the printing process, even spending most nights there until the university closed. I chose to specialise in print as I felt that the opportunities were endless.
You said discovering prints never ends, What motivated your recent work focused on materiality using various natural fabrics and dyes?
I titled my final year project ‘Future Fossils’. The focus was on costal areas and manmade waste. After being introduced to natural dye in the beginning of my final year at university, I was hooked. I had always wanted to print in the most sustainable way possible, but it was a challenge when most print paste is made entirely of chemicals.
“I chose to specialise in print as I felt that the opportunities were endless.”
As your Covid-19 lockdown getaway inspired you to get inspiration from nature and your collection is based on coastal areas, how was the isolating experience in these unreal times as a designer?
My final project was disrupted by the lockdown and was therefore a difficult experience. I had to leave everything behind, my materials, my sketchbooks, all my plans and ideas. It was heartbreaking. I really struggled as I had no idea how to print without the equipment. The positive side of the lockdown was that I was lucky to be able to go to Wales and stay with a friend, where there was workspace and peace, by the coast. We were forced into thinking differently about design and creating, which has changed my whole way of working.
“The positive side of the lockdown was that I was lucky to be able to go to Wales and stay with a friend, where there was workspace and peace, by the coast. We were forced into thinking differently about design and creating, which has changed my whole way of working.”
Could you elaborate more on how you infuse sustainability in your work?
During my time in Wales, I would walk around the coast each day and we worked outside in the garden. I collected seaweed, mud and plants to use for my final collection. I also found residual manmade waste such as rust. I continued to use natural dye, mainly because I really didn’t have many alternatives. I gathered food-waste and plants to start dying with. It was amazing, because I started to develop new techniques of how natural dye can react in combination with rust, to create natural prints.
As you explored and discovered a creative way of how prints can be developed throughout nature and environment, what steps did you take into this natural process?
In order for me to develop these natural techniques I had to continue to try every possible process around me. It truly is about having an experimental mindset and I came to find that not being able to use the print room wouldn’t prevent me from designing. It was the best learning process for me to know that no matter where I would find myself in the world, I would always be able to create and design. You just have to use what is around you. This was actually the time I developed the main design idea for my business I have now started. I sometimes find this experience to be a blessing, as I would never have been able to design the scarves I am creating and selling today, if it wasn't for the lockdown.
“In order for me to develop these natural techniques I had to continue to try every possible process around me. It truly is about having an experimental mindset and I came to find that not being able to use the print room wouldn’t prevent me from designing.”
Discover Sissell Gustavsen's full collection
Words by Katarzyna Korcz