Turning turtle

Debby, our textiles tutor at Morley College, asked us all to think about a theme for our work over the next few weeks.

I was finishing my assignment on Sri Lanka last week when I came across a photo of an albino turtle (above) I took at a turtle sanctuary at Kosgoda on the south-west coast. Local fishermen dig up turtle eggs buried in the sand and used to eat them, but now the sanctuary offers 10-15 rupees for every egg brought to it. The sanctuary reburies the eggs, and when they hatch, the  baby turtles are released into the sea.

The sanctuary also has several injured adult turtles, including the albino turtle above. Some of these can be treated and, once healed, released back into the wild. Others, including the albino and one whose front flippers were amputated by a boat propellor, will never be released because their chances of survival in the wild are practically zero. (And they live to 200-300 years old – that’s a lot of fish!)

I hadn’t realised before this that turtle shells could have such distinctive and beautiful patterns rather than the mottled brown and orange you see on “tortoiseshell” combs and boxes. Then I went online and found a few other examples.

Image by Swamibu
Image by 20/20 Communications
Image by Shahzad Hamed


So over the next few weeks I’m going to be exploring the shape, texture, pattern and form of turtle shells in textiles. I’ve got loads of ideas and I’m really excited – so watch this space!

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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

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