Weaving our way towards sustainable fashion
We continue our series of interviews with inspiring activists: next up is Sarah Ward, who is an Essex-based hand weaver and educator specialising in slow design and sustainable practice. Founder of Lark and Bower, Sophia met Sarah in 2019 meeting in her hometown of concerned folk looking for community and to take climate action. We’ve been following Sarah’s work ever since, particularly to her creative response of online weaving workshops during the pandemic. She not only celebrates craftsmanship and woven structure as an art form, but also raises awareness about waste, and the environmental and social impact of the textile industry. Her latest campaign centres around denim.
What concerns you about the world today?
Primarily climate change, and the lack of action being taken by our world leaders. In particular, for me, the exploitation and social injustices within the fast fashion and textile industries. I’ve worked for some years in textiles and seen first-hand terrible working conditions, child labour etc. There’s a lack of transparency in the fashion industry and people aren’t necessarily aware of the environmental and social damage they’re supporting. This has propelled me to try to make a positive contribution from the inside.
What positive contributions are you making?
Mainly through teaching crafts: weaving specifically. I see my role as an educator, to share knowledge and raise awareness with others. So, I give talks on the relationship between the fashion industry and the environment, I run workshops on how to weave beautiful things from waste yarn, and I make hand woven denim using industry waste cotton and dyes. I never use new yarn since so much waste yarn ends up in landfill, although it’s often new anyway: simply discarded because it’s ‘last year’s colour’ or something similar.
Have you had to make any sacrifices?
One answer is I’m not really sacrificing anything, but another is that there are financial sacrifices: I previously worked for a top fashion brand, so I’m not earning that kind of money any longer and I often don’t charge for the talks I give. People are more likely to book something that’s free, and it’s important that people have access to this content.
I also don’t find the public speaking, or self-presentation, part of my work easy to do: it can cause me anxiety which isn’t great for my health, but I do it because it needs to be done.
How do you stay motivated?
I’d like to have my own children one day, but even if I don’t, we need to do what we need to do for the future generation. Their future depends on us now. And every time the government fails us, I feel even more determined to push for change.
What gives you hope?
When I feel I have reached someone – when they respond in a positive way to a talk, or a workshop – I am hopeful and feel motivated to continue. Their awareness has been raised in some way, and that can only be a good thing.
What if we make the changes needed, what will your world in 2030 look like?
Hopefully, greener, with healthy populations of birds and insects etc. Hopefully more sense of community. More acknowledgement of world issues. And a better education system: children can leave school ignorant of the world’s biggest problems, and unknowingly enabling and contributing to them.
A book that has helped you grow…
Note: affiliate link to Bookshop.org
A song that keeps you going…
When I need to weave faster, anything by Tina Turner…
and when I need to calm down, anything by Arooj Aftab.
…and a quote that lifts you up…
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the differenceThe Serenity Prayer (original version by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr)
And given that my weaving business is a family affair, my 95 year old Nan’s favourite: “you can only do your best”.
Finally: imagine we give you a microphone, and every person on the planet can hear you. What will you say?
Stop buying so much stuff
Love and help each other
Spend more time in nature
Just show up
Daphne Pleace Yorkshire, UK Daphne is our well-being director and in-house writer. She has over 50 years’ experience of ‘people’ work in a range of contexts. She has been, or still is, an English and drama teacher, a counsellor in educational and relational settings, a psychotherapist, and a facilitator and mentor in both personal and professional developmental contexts. She chooses now to devote her time and skills to individuals and organisations working with the climate crisis. View all posts