Our Synthetic Oceans Issue – inspiration from Katie Turton

According to statistics from the United Nations Environment Programme we currently produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year.  That’s roughly the weight of the entire human population!  In previous posts Laura has highlighted the wonderful products made from ocean plastic pollution and the designers & manufacturers working to responsibly recycle these plastics.

Coincidentally Katie Turton, a student from Birmingham University who we’ve been watching over the last year and who was a guest blogger for us last September, has dedicated her final year project to raising awareness of the plastic pollution in our oceans.

Her work has a strong visual impact and is thought-provoking, so we’re delighted to share it with you here, following its showcase during week 1 of New Designers last month.

Katie Turton expresses how she has used and manipulated waste from our beaches and oceans into art forms. Katie now talks us through her project.

“By 2050 it is expected that there will be more plastic in our oceans by weight than fish.”

The amount of plastic found in our oceans has become increasingly concerning throughout recent decades. As society hasn’t responded as fast or as well to recycling and reusing plastic as initially hoped, more and more plastics have been dumped into our oceans.

Through the use of heat and embroidery processes, my work explores how these plastics, such as bottles, bags, netting and straws, can be transformed into fascinating textile pieces.

Beautiful coral reefs and our deepest oceans are being destroyed by plastic. My trend vision for this project, which I have named ‘Synthetic Oceans’, explores the textural surfaces from these instances of pollution and potential mutations. My explorations have gained a very positive response as they interestingly convey the extent of the potential damage to our seas.

The final structures express the dynamic and vivid forms of unharmed corals, as well as indicating the brutality of what ocean pollution has caused to these fragile ecosystems that lie beneath the waves. The affects of this have included coral bleaching, entanglement, trapping and, in severe cases, suffocation. I have explored this issue using colour and materiality to gauge these effects through advanced photography.

I also researched and discovered that the reuse and repurposing of materials is currently a huge trend across many industries in order to reduce waste. Thus, this project would appeal to the design industry. This collection will have opportunities in industries such as interior design, visual merchandising and jewellery. The main inspirations of the project came from my childhood. I loved walking along beaches and looking for hidden treasures. I also fell in love with snorkelling whilst on holidays, which has also allowed me to see and connect with the world that lives underwater.

If you would like to find out more information on the pollution of of our planet and organisations to help prevent these harms, please click on the links below!

Photo credit: Paulo Oliveira/Alamy

The editor of today’s post is Nicola Valente, also a Textile Design student studying at Heriot-Watt University.


Our thanks to Katie Turton for sharing her fascinating work.  To keep up-to-date with Katie’s stunning photography, colour & material experiments and pattern work you can follow her Instagram feed. You can also connect with her on LinkedIn. Katie has just completed her Textile Design degree at Birmingham City University and has a keen interest in Trend Forecasting.  You can get in touch to offer her projects, commissions or permanent positions via: kturton12@hotmail.co.uk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.