Lorna Doyle Wetsuit Rescue

For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!

This interview is with Lorna Doyle, an amazing textile designer who resues wetsuits from her local community in and around Deal, Kent. She then transforms this waste material into beautiful bags and pouches. Here she talks us through how she came to work with waste materials and how you can get involved if you have a wetsuit to donate.

Tell me about yourself and the work that you do.
I rescue wetsuits from my local community and transform the waste material into bags. Lorna Doyle
How or why did you get started?
I studied textile design at Chelsea School of art after graduating university I worked as a freelance textile designer using neoprene in my textile designs.
I then attended a Circular Economy Workshop with Future Foundry. During a studio visit to Elvis and Kresse who make bags out of fire hoses. I decided to use donated wetsuits instead of buying neoprene to make my textile designs.
When researching the environmental impact of wetsuits I was shocked find out that wetsuits do not have a specific recycling process and a wetsuit can take up to 80 plus years to break down in landfill.
I then contacted my local surf schools and clubs – Joss Bay Surf School, Whitstable Yacht Club and Oyster Coast Water Sports to see if they had any old wetsuits to donate.
My local surf schools and clubs donated generously and now I reuse their old wetsuits and work with them to divert as many wetsuits from landfill as possible.
I then printed my textile designs on the donated wetsuits and transformed the waste material into bags.
What is your favourite thing about the materials that you work with?
Wetsuits come in all different shapes, thicknesses, sizes and colours.
Neoprene is a versatile material and quite difficult to work with but I enjoy the challenge.

Where can we find you on the internet/buy your work?
On my Instagram, Website and Facebook
Image by Yeshen Venema

How/has working sustainably impacted your non-business life?
I now go to charity shops and try to repair items before buying brand new.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to grow my wetsuit rescue business and work with as many individuals and companies to be the solution to their wetsuit waste
I want to distribute wetsuit donation bins around the country and divert as many wetsuits from landfill as possible.

Can you recommend any other makers or businesses that work in an ethical or sustainable way?

Wyatt and Jack are amazing they make sustainable bags out of broken bouncy castles ! Deckchairs and inflatables.

Have you got a particular cause or issue that you would like to raise awareness of?
Wetsuit Waste and the Circular Economy

What is the most challenging thing about the materials that you work with?
My biggest challenge is working with different thicknesses of neoprene fortunately I was given funding by SECADS. This funding enabled me to purchase an industrial sewing machine to tackle the different thicknesses of wetsuits donated.Image by Yeshen Venema
Take me on an imaginary tour of your workspace.
My workspace has storage containers filled with rescued wetsuits organised in order of thickness colour and condition. There is a sewing machine and table with a cutting matt up against the wall. There is a dog bed on the floor and a mood board on the wall plus many more boxes filled with zips, thread and scissors.

Do you have a motto or quote that defines your practice?
Reduce Reuse Repair Recycle.
Do you have any advice for people trying to shop more ethically?
I recently came across Your Little Green Shop in Deal high street and The Vegan Eco Store in Dover. These shops are a perfect examples of a zero waste refill and plastic shop which stocks ethical products.
Look locally before buying from big brands. 

What does a typical day look like for you.
If I am not working at my day job as a carer.
I get up have a coffee and take my dogs out. I either collect, sort, cut or print the wetsuits in the morning and make the rescued wetsuit bags in the afternoon/evening. I try to make time in the week to go to Biggin Hall in Dover to use Future Foundry’s  equipment and screen print in their studios.

What's your favourite thing to do with your free time and why?

I like watching UFC, Ru Paul Drag Race and taking my dogs out for walks with the occasional pint of Guinness. I try to look forward to watching something or seeing friends in the evening so I have something to look forward to. This makes me more productive during the day.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams talk you out of yours.
What would be the top thing that you would change about the way we treat the planet if you could?
I would to ban single use plastic.
Image by Yeshen Venema

Is there anything else you would like to share?

If you would like to donate a wetsuit as an individual or as an organisation please get in touch either through my website or Instagram.
If you would like to become a Wetsuit Donation Wetsuit drop of point please message me for more information.

Image by Yeshen Venema

Photographs by @yeshen.uk and @lornadoyledesign