UZUMAKI’S WORLD

“My practice is a lot like my compost bin.“ Welcome to the ever-germinating and sprouting world of Beth Williams, a disabled designer and multi-disciplinary artist who specialises in knitwear, living textiles and soft sculpture. With the designer, we discussed their pivotal creative concept, Uzumaki's World, the use of innovative compostable yarn, striving to get one's voice heard in predominantly able-bodied fashion spaces, the immense power of community, and more.

What motivated you to create Uzumaki’s World

I created Uzumaki’s World to fill my desire to create a space for myself and my practice to thrive. I began laying down its roots during my time at the Royal College of Art. At the RCA, we were encouraged to find our own definition of fashion, so instead of creating a graduate collection I created Uzumaki’s World. Getting to the point of being able to create a body of work like this, where I found so much freedom, was a massive achievement for me. I’ve struggled with my health, trauma and disability for such a long time. At some point, I didn’t know if I’d survive, let alone be successful in my practice.  

Uzumaki’s World is the space I’ve fought so hard to be able to create for myself. A safe space for me to create without worrying about others meeting my access needs. A space I hope others would like to join or visit. Its creation started from a place of frustration and the feeling of not belonging. Existing as a disabled person within the creative industry can be so difficult. Accessibility and sustainability issues are often seen as distinct but to me, they are one and the same, and the components of Uzumaki’s World embody this.

Could you elaborate on the concept behind the ‘Afterlife’ series? How does this series challenge traditional notions of clothing accessibility? 

Afterlife is my ongoing series of growable, living, compostable garments. With each piece, I experiment with different ways of fabricating living textiles. The series first started at a time when I was feeling very disillusioned with the fashion industry. I was really struggling with loving what I did but feeling like I couldn’t succeed due to accessibility issues I kept encountering. Many people don’t consider the accessibility of workspaces or the pieces they create. It can feel like you are screaming against a wall when trying to get your voice heard when you’re one of the few disabled people in certain spaces. Especially when it comes to sustainability issues, it is seen as a distinct issue from accessibility. Sometimes, it’s seen as too complicated to think about both but they are one and the same.  

 

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I’m just one person, I can’t solve these massive issues by myself, nor could I create garments that are 100% accessible whilst also sustainable. So, as a form of protest, I created a series of yarns designed for their afterlife. They’re compostable and growable, they give back to the Earth. They completely bypass being worn by humans. If it’s impossible for a piece of clothing to be inclusive of all, I would rather make something exclusive of all. I hoped this would allow able-bodied people to understand what it’s like for things to be inaccessible, and encourage designers to think about the accessibility needs of disabled people both when designing clothes and when working with us. 

 

In recent years, we’ve seen so much more visibility in the industry with more adaptive fashion brands and lines. I would love to see adaptive design be considered by all brands. So if the Afterlife series allows just one person to think about accessibility a little more, I’d be very happy.

How do you view the role of community in the world of fashion and art, and why do you consider it an essential component of your work? 

Often the world of fashion and art is seen as incredibly competitive. While I think that competition can be important, it can also encourage creatives to be resistant to collaboration and community. Yet, we can’t change anything by ourselves. The world and the industry are facing so many crises and as artists, we are great at finding beautiful ways to talk about these issues. We have the power to connect, captivate and educate but we gain so much power by joining together. That’s why community is so important to me and my practice. 

 

Community has given so much to my work. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. The disabled communities I’m a part of are fundamental to my practice. There’s a level of understanding to issues we each face, we know how to support one another without judgement. At the same time, no one who is disabled faces the exact same issues or access needs, we all have such varied lived experiences. When I discuss disability and accessibility in my practice, their input is invaluable as there will always be things I miss or don’t think of. 

Additionally, I’ve been slowly building my own world. A gentle, caring, compassionate world of living textiles. No world is complete without a community, and I have started to invite people into mine. I have had the privilege to access information, research and explore new techniques throughout my time at some of the world’s leading art schools. I have had the time and space to experiment and find ways processes can be done in the comfort of people’s homes, on a budget. Many disabled people are not so lucky. This is why it is so important for me to share my process with them.  

Now, at SWARM Mag, we are focusing on the theme THE ROOTS OF TASTE. The last question: how do you remain connected to your roots while embracing the future? 

My practice is great at reminding me to stay connected to my roots. As I have and will continue to collaborate with non-human life, many of my experiments are unsuccessful but I learn something from each failure. Just as I have with all of the traumatic experiences in my life. I carry this knowledge throughout my practice and whilst searching for joy. My practice is a lot like my compost bin. I work through all the waste and “crap” in order for new life to blossom.  

My life experience both with disability and childhood trauma has made looking to the future hard. Everything can be so up and down so I try not to plan too far in advance. 

That’s why my practice is in the present but my work speaks to the future. It can be confusing but also magical, but most of all it is mine. I have grown and I will continue to evolve.  

My Life is like Compost.  

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Bio

Beth Williams is a disabled designer and multi-disciplinary artist who specialises in knitwear, living textiles and soft sculpture. Their practice centres around their experience of an inaccessible world, as well as the relationship between human and environmental sustainability. After graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2022 where they studied Fashion Design with Knitwear, Beth struggled to find a place for their practice to flourish. Their work at the RCA focused on carving a space for themselves in the industry and expanding that space by starting to build a community around it. Their living textiles and garments grow alongside them, collaborating together to question the status quo.

Credits

fashion designer – @beexbeth

interview -@khynko

performance images – Mattia Truppi (Instagram: @cranio.obj)

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