Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Sheila Clark

PhD Work

The Design and Prototyping of Innovative Sustainable Material and Textile Solutions for Automotive Interiors

This practice-based research explores the potential for using sustainable materials, in closed-loop systems applied to aspects of an automotive interior. I approached this by using materials in separate recovery streams – biological for industrial composting, and technical for recycling. 

The thesis sets out the challenges I faced when dealing with the messy reality of real-world designing. These were: working within established industrial systems, complex global supply chains, the marketing of materials, and perceived expectations of how automotive products should look. The thesis explores how, as the research progressed, my thinking about the research question shifted, as the problem and solution spaces were further explored.

The thesis includes discussion of the practical projects and reflections on the broader systemic questions, which the projects raise; including the nature of practice-based research.


  • PhD


    School of Design


    Intelligent Mobility, 2007–2019

  • Design | Materials | Research | Sustainability | 

    I am fascinated by materials – their myriad capabilities, the messages they subliminally convey, and the dialogue they invite concerning an artefact or product. I am interested in the relationship between craft and industrially produced items; the perception of materials in each context and how these boundaries can be blurred. My work exists in a space between science, engineering, design and making.

  • Degrees

  • MA, Tapestry, Royal College of Art, 1986; BA (Hons), Constructed Textiles, Middlesex University, 1983
  • Experience

  • Report writer, 'Emotional Tech' project, Intelligent Mobility Design Centre, London, 2018–2019; Materials consultant, Future London Taxi, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, London, 2015; Research project, 'Future Materials and Colour for Automotive Design', Royal College of Art, London, 2005; Yarn specialist, Royal College of Art, 1988–present
  • Exhibitions

  • New Narratives, The Sustain RCA Show, RCA, London, 2015; Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), Materials Showroom, London, 2007–2014; Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), Charlotte, USA, 2007; Japan Society of Automotive Engineers (JSAE), Yokohama, Japan, 2006
  • Awards

  • Worshipful Company of Weavers, 2014; Textile Society, Professional Development Award, 2013; Royal College of Art Research Development Fund, 2005–2006; Churchill Travelling Fellowship, 2002; Pollock-Krasner Award, 1992; Oppenheim-John Downes Award, 1991
  • Publications

  • My route towards practice-led research, Text: for the study of textile art, design and history, Volume 42:2014-2015, 67-69