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Textile waste diverted from landfill, pulverised into powder to produce works of art


Pigments extracted from waste textiles have been turned into works of art by Indigenous artists for a free exhibition showing at Deakin University’s Waterfront Campus.

The ‘Perpetual Pigments’ exhibition is part of Geelong Design Week (running until 29 October) and also features screen printed fabric designs using the recycled pigments, including the test run of new t-shirts produced in collaboration with surf brand Rip Curl.

The innovative works of art and design are the fruits of research, based at the ARC Research Hub for Future Fibres at Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials, exploring how to divert coloured textile waste from landfill and find new ways to use large volumes of recycled textiles.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Rangam Rajkhowa said about 800,000 tonnes of textile waste end up in landfill in Australia each year. But he hopes his world-first pigment extraction process can provide new ways discarded clothes and other textiles can be reused in the circular economy.

“We’ve found that particles produced from textile waste segregated by colour could be used for a range of applications. This includes pigments for printing or colouring textiles, and which can also be used to create art,” Associate Professor Rajkhowa said.

“Our simple but powerful approach could address the huge challenges of recycling textiles due to complexities of different colours, fibres and blends.”

Using textile waste sourced through industry partner Textile Recyclers Australia – which receives unwanted clothing and textiles from households, retailers and industry – the Deakin research team grinds down the materials to produce a fine powder.

For this project – supported with a grant from Sustainability Victoria’s Circular Economy Markets Fund – pigment powders have been produced in primary colours, black and ochre to provide to the participating artists to mix and use as they wish.

Perpetual Pigments co-curator Dr Russell Kennedy said the commissions allowed an opportunity to test the capabilities of the pigments, with artists asked to document their experience and give feedback.

“We wanted to explore what’s possible. It’s fantastic that these recycled pigments can be used and experimented with,” he said.

“We hope this is the first step in developing new ways that waste textiles can be given a beautiful second life.”

Perpetual Pigments: Sustainable Colour Continuous Culture

WHEN: 19 to 29 October 2023, 10am to 4pm

WHERE: The Project Space Gallery, Deakin University Waterfront Campus

Co-curated by Dr Russell Kennedy, Dr Tonya Meyrick and Jacinta Kay from Deakin’s School for Communication and Creative Arts.

Featured artists:

  • Elly Chatfield (Gamillaroi)
  • Brandi Salmon (Wiradjuri – Tongan)
  • Jenny Murray-Jones (Yorta Yorta – Baraparapa)
  • Kiri Wicks (Noongar – Tuwharetoa)
  • Nikki McKenzie (Wadawurrung)
  • Norm Stanley (Kurnai – Wotjabaluk)

Media contact

Elise Snashall Woodhams
+61 3 9244 6614
0455 789 961