Lorna Doyle – Wetsuit Rescue

Lorna Doyle is saving the world from discarded wetsuits.  Unwanted wetsuits create 380 tonnes of non-biodegradable waste every year. With sailors and surfers changing their wetsuits every 2 years, this is an ongoing waste issue.  Lorna has been working with local sailing and sea sports clubs to take their unwanted wetsuits and turn them into wanted bags and accessories. Find her at the 2023 Festive Marketplace at Folkestone Harbour.  She’ll have a bin for all unwanted wetsuits, and you can buy some fantastic upcycled goodies in return.  Folkelife met Lorna to find out how she came up with this idea.

“I went to Chelsea School of Art and graduated as a textile designer.  I was working a lot with neoprene and creating collections for some New York fashion labels.  This idea of working in a circular economy – using waste to create profit – is something I’ve been interested in and so started to do some workshops.  I went to see Elvis and Kresse which is a company that uses old fire hoses to create belts and bags and so on.  That got me thinking about what I could use.  So instead of buying new neoprene, I thought I could get hold of old, unwanted wetsuits, clean them up and use those instead.”

community service

There are lots of sea sports centres around the coast here and they all have a collection of different sized wetsuits for people to use.  The problem is that this material is non-biodegradable, so it has to go into landfill.  We all know that we don’t want to increase our landfill anymore than we can possible help, so it makes sense for me to collect these suits and use them for my work.  

Being at the Festive Marketplace got me thinking about how I could expand my accessories range to include some Christmas decorations too.  My mum actually came up with the idea which is unusual for her; she’s not that creative!  With all the offcuts and little bits I have around the place, I could make Christmas Wreaths.  They look really fun and, of course, you can reuse them each year!”

Lorna Doyle
Wetsuit Wreath
Lorna Doyle Purse

architectural and waterproof

This material is so versatile you can make anything.  It has a good structure to it so you can be quite architectural in what you create.  Also, as it’s waterproof, that can be used to its advantage.  When you cut it, it doesn’t fray, which is really good.  It means that you don’t need to hem anything or finish off the edges.  

“I make bags and purses but I’ve also started experimenting with some sculpture.  These work well in shops that sell wetsuits etc.  I’ve had various contact me wanting installations to show off their wetsuit section, using something a little more exciting that just a wetsuit on a mannequin.”

the fifth trust

In my other work I am an art instructor with adults with learning disabilities.  I work for The Fifth Trust in the Elham Valley.  It’s a part of my work I really enjoy and I’m looking to expand this so that I can incorporate the wetsuit work with people with learning needs.  

For now though, let’s just concentrate on the next three weeks to Christmas in Folkestone which I’m really looking forward to.”

Discover more about folkestone below

Renovating Folkestone Harbour – A Labour of Love
The Place To Be – Folkestone Harbour
Beachside at The Harbour Arm
Harbourside At The Folkestone Harbour

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