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Sissel Gustavsen - Precious Fish

Image of one of Sissell Gustavsen's Precious Fish prints
Precious Fish, Sissell Gustavsen (BA Textiles) Photo: Sissell Gustavsen

Marine life is precious - Sissell Gustavsen, BA Textiles: Print winner, describes the inspiration behind her ocean-inspired textile prints.

As global demand for seafood constantly increases fishing companies are continuously maximising their fishing activities - this is leading to a large-scale deterioration of fish populations. If this ever-increasing demand for seafood continues there will be little or no marine life left in the near future - seafood is something that we should eat in moderation and with respect as many species may not exist in the future. I aimed to tackle this important issue in my work.

"My design has a delicate message that reminds us of the opulence, enjoyment and preciousness of the fish we take for granted..."

I also conducted research into old wallpaper designs, mainly the way the patterns are constructed and how the details interact. This research helped me to convey a delicate message in my designs that reminds us of the opulence, enjoyment and preciousness of the fish we take for granted.

I incorporated Swarovski upcycled crystals into my design to enhance the appealing features of the creatures in my prints, bringing them to life. The designs remind us that there are many beautiful lifeforms in our oceans that we should admire and protect.

My design has been made for an interior setting - it is wallpaper with a repeated design that can be used for fish restaurants or home decoration. The wallpaper is designed to last for a long time meaning that it won't need to be replaced as often as cheaper disposable options. In this sense it is a 'conscious design'.


What does conscious design mean to you?

I think conscious design is the future. It means putting a great deal of thought into creating a design that doesn’t harm the world or a design that reminds people to live in a sustainable way. For me, conscious design is about the choices we make as designers and my vision is always to create a sustainable and long lasting product.

As a designer would you say you’re consciously minded or do you put more emphasis on the creative process?

As a designer, I feel that it is an important responsibility to be consciously minded but I also put a lot of energy into the creative process. I think the two things can work very well together and can even enhance each other if you decide to combine them. That is what I tried to do in this project and I think it ended up being more interesting because of that.

How do you approach your project, do you usually have a vague idea in mind and work towards that or do you just let your creative research guide you?

I let my intuition guide me throughout the design process and always try to challenge myself to push my projects further. I begin with an idea of something that I want to explore, but I never really know how it is going to evolve or end. At the beginning of the design process I'm brimming with ideas about which materials, colours and shapes I'd like to experiment with, but the end result is never something I would have imagined at the start.  This is what makes the process so much fun!

How was it working with Swarovski crystals? Is it a material you have worked with before?

I really enjoyed working with Swarovski crystals - especially since I’ve never used them before. Whilst gluing the crystals to the fabric was quite time consuming it was really worth the effort as it made such a difference to the design.

Further research

Image of fish from the National Geographic website
Image: National Geographic

The threat of overfishing

National Geographic explains how climate change and overfishing are depleting our essential fisheries

The Victoria and Albert Museum's wallpaper section on their website
Image: Victoria and Albert Museum


Discover more about the history of wallpaper on the Victoria and Albert Museum's website