VALDESE, N.C. — November 2, 2022 — Ocean pollution is becoming an increasingly disturbing problem. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, plastic waste makes up an estimated 80 percent of marine pollution. Approximately 10 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the oceans each year, killing seabirds, fish, and marine mammals. Over time, the discarded plastic breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics that absorb a range of chemicals floating in the marine environment, including pesticides and toxic metals. These chemical-laden particles are ingested by fish and shellfish and then passed to humans through the consumption of seafood.
To date, SEAQUAL INITIATIVE has cleaned more than 600 tons of waste from our oceans and more than 200 tons of marine litter has been transformed into reclaimed marine plastic. This incredible growing accomplishment was made possible through the collaborative efforts of more than 60 countries and the partnerships from an increasing number of brands, manufacturers and retail stores worldwide. InsideOut Performance Fabrics® is one of these proud partners and is working with SEAQUAL INITIATIVE to manufacture performance fabrics that are made with the upcycled marine plastic they’ve collected from ocean floors and beaches. These residential, commercial and contract grade fabrics are the first of their kind.
Blake Millinor, president, and CEO of Valdese Weavers, noted: “Plastic is one of the most commonly used materials because it is lightweight, strong, and virtually indestructible, which is why it is an ideal choice for a durable performance fabric. Yarns derived from reclaimed polyester-based plastic are resilient, repel liquids, are fade resistant and work well with other types of yarns. For the average household, what makes these fabrics even more appealing is that they are highly cleanable and can stand up to the everyday messes from pets and kids.” He quipped, “These fabrics won’t clean themselves, but they are the next best thing.”
Laura Lambie Levinson, chief creative officer for Valdese Weavers, opined that: “Regardless of its performance qualities, no one wants fabric that is not visually resplendent and soft to the touch. Our team has decades of experience working with polyester yarns and our artisans have created some stunning new designs in textures, chenille, bouclé, and patterns.” She expressed, “but what I like best about this partnership is that it is a collaborative effort. No single one of us can solve the world’s problems by ourselves. When we work together, make sustainable choices and act responsibly, we can heal the damage we have done to our planet.”
Levinson added: “There are many ways to tell this story, including science, ecology, and corporate responsibility. We could tell a darker narrative of carelessness, ignorance, and lack of effective disposal systems, but the most loved and remembered stories are told through art. Art is an act of shared communication. It allows us to imagine things not only as they are, but as they should be. It is a sensory experience that charges our emotions, brings us together and provides a shared visceral experience. It illuminates problems and inspires change.”
To that end, InsideOut Performance Fabrics® is collaborating with artist Mel Chin and the Hickory Museum of Art to produce an exhibition creating awareness of the problem and potential solutions. Mr. Chin is an internationally recognized North Carolina-based artist and recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship. He is renowned for the broad range of approaches in his art, including works that require multi-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork and works that enlist science as an aesthetic component to communicate complex ideas.
SEA to SEE is a unique installation at the Hickory Museum of Art on loan from the collection of The Mint Museum’s exhibition themed Connecting the World: The Panama Canal at 100. Jon Carfagno, executive director of the HMA noted, “The mission of this show is to bring people together and inspire creativity through the power of art.” He added, “SEAQUAL INITIATIVE is working to clean oceans and raise awareness. Mel Chin uses creativity and science to raise awareness through his art.”
Local companies are putting action behind awareness and leading the way in addressing ocean pollution by using post-consumer recycled yarn, thus transforming a problem into a solution. This is a perfect example of industry, community, and the arts joining together to solve an environmental problem and provide new context for why Western North Carolina is considered “The Furniture Capital of the World.”
Mark Hartnell, representing SEAQUAL INITIATIVE, exclaimed: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Mel Chin, InsideOut Performance Fabrics and the Hickory Museum of Art for our very first arts-focused collaboration. Raising awareness of the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans and inspiring people with beautiful products made from ‘waste’, are key objectives for SEAQUAL INITIATIVE, and what better way to do it than with this wonderful exhibit.”
Roger Berrier, COO for Valdese Weavers, added, “This is more than blind idealism — it is good science that makes practical sense. Valdese Weavers has been utilizing recycled plastic water bottles in fabrics for more than 20 years. When our supply chain partner introduced the idea of recycling marine plastic to help clean our oceans, we immediately embraced it. With advancements in the science of recycling processes and equipment, there is no sacrifice to the fabrics for performance, softness or color. We are excited we can utilize this technology and increase our role in providing a better planet for generations to come.”
Millinor concluded: “We are proud to take a leadership position in bringing together an affiliation of like minded creative people that are committed to making a difference. In addition to the artwork, there are dioramas of plastic pollution that is typically dumped into oceans, exhibits of the process by which this garbage is transformed, and examples of furniture made using SEAQUAL INITIATIVE fabrics from Arhaus, Allsteel and Summer Classics. This exhibit is a compelling way to show a problem and how we are working together to help solve it. This is just the beginning.”
The SEA to SEE exhibit will be on display at the Hickory Museum of Art (HMA) until the end of January 2023. A reception will be held on Friday, November 4th from 7 to 9 PM in the Drendle Auditorium and the COE Gallery at the HMA. This will include a conversation between the artist and Jonathan Stuhlman, Senior Curator of American Art at The Mint Museum.
Posted: November 7, 2022
Source: Valdese Weavers