Arts Foundation Awards 2016 – Materials Innovation Prize

On the evening of the 28th of January a very excited crowd assembled at the Twentieth Century Theatre, London, W11, for the 2016 Arts Foundation Awards, in six artistic categories. This year, guest of honour, Sebastian Faulks, opened the envelopes to announce six deserving winners of the Awards, each receiving £10,000 – and three runners-up in each category also received £1,000. The Awards are given to support the artists, with no strings attached, to spend on anything they need to enable them continue in their creative practice.

The brilliant Materials Innovation category is supported, annually, by the Clothworkers’ Foundation. Applicants can be involved in materials innovation at any stage of the lifecycle – including the development of a new material, new processes of finishing/manufacturing or reprocessing of an existing material, recycling, logistics, retail and distribution.


The winner this year is Carmen Hijosa, whose material innovation, Piñatex, is a revolutionary new product, developed from pineapple fibre waste streams. Once she had developed the first prototypes, she continued her research in a PhD at RCA, having completed a BA and MA in Textiles at the National College of Art & Design, Dublin years before.

Spanish-born Carmen explains ‘my previous work had been in the designing and manufacturing of leather goods, which gave me an insight into the ecological damage caused by the tanning of leather’. Through time spent in the Philippines working with weaving communities and researchers she started to understand the nature of the indigenous, natural fibres they were working with. Pineapple leaf fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest and therefore agricultural waste. While working with these fibres Carmen realized that their strength and flexible characteristics would make the fibres very appropriate to be developed into a non-woven mesh, not unlike leather.

Adhering to a strong social and ecological agenda, Carmen developed the full supply chain for the product from farm to finished product adopting the Cradle to Cradle ® ethos. During her PhD she collaborated with several brands such as Camper and Puma who made shoe prototypes and niche companies such as Ally Capellino as well as with RCA designers making bags and furniture. The idea was to show the versatility and potential of Piñatex through the making of accessories and home furnishings.

Finding a replacement for leather is now top of the agenda for many manufacturers including those in the car and aeronautical industries. The possibility of replacing leather with a textile developed from what is, otherwise, a waste product from agriculture is the primary goal of Piñatex, alongside the social aim to bring extra income to the farming communities.

With the money from this award Carmen intends to develop a 100% natural, bio-based coating for Piñatex and will continue to research a sustainable degumming process for the pineapple fibres. Through her proven creative and organisational talents, Carmen has provided an exciting new potential contribution to textile development and putting her at the forefront of 21st Century approaches to design.

In total, the Arts Foundation Award category winners for 2016 are:

Literary TranslationDeborah Smith
Jewellery Design Vann Kwok
Producers of Live MusicLaura Ducceschi
Children’s Theatre Gregory Sinclair
Art in Urban SpaceRuth Ewan
Materials InnovationCarmen Hijosa

Art Foundation Awards make a difference! Since the inception of its annual Fellowship Scheme, almost 25 years ago, the Trust has awarded over £1,650,000, supporting artists from the fields of Performing and Visual Arts, Crafts, Literature, New Media, Film and Design. Many of the recipients have gone on to become leaders in their art form.

Kay Politowicz