Learning & Knowing | Interventions

Circular colour: Developing a model for industry.

Karen Spurgin


ao textiles is a project based design consultancy evolving from the collaboration

between Penny Walsh, Emma D’Arcey and Karen Spurgin. While it has focused on many of the issues encountered when designing textiles to a sustainable remit, the focus of ao’s research is in the area of colour.


Reviving techniques and adapting the use of natural colour for contemporary textile production is the subject of our research. It has particular relevance at this time, contributing to the critical discourse on how we make things and the impact on the environment. In order to develop a strategy that fosters both environmental concerns and works with industry, we have explored some key techniques that develop this process of dyeing. Alongside our industry partner, ao has been able to investigate and determine whether plant based dyes can be part of C21 circular production. We now create fabrics with natural colour that are scalable, repeatable, compostable and of the quality demanded by industry. This paper will discuss the challenges as well as the more tangible successes of the project and contribute to a wider industry and academic based conversation on how to elevate sustainable craft based practices into circular and viable production methods.