Do Not Go Gentle: Meet Sustainability Consultant and tutor, Olivia Aspinall

21 June 2024

A woman sat on a chair in her studio
Olivia Aspinall
Type: Text
Category: Interviews

Olivia Aspinall is a sustainably-minded creative with many strings to her bow. Her sustainability consultancy and education platform Do Not Go Gentle has a large and engaged online following, and as a business founder, textile designer and sustainable business master’s graduate, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role as Online Tutor on Falmouth’s online BA in Interior Design. We chatted to Olivia about innovative approaches to design and her belief in the power of education to make the world a better place.  

Can you tell us about your earlier experiences with materials and design? 

I studied Textile Design at Central Saint Martins - which was a very broad textiles course, so we studied knit, print and weave - but within that I went very rogue! I initially specialised in printed textiles, but by the time I was making my final major project, I was producing hard surfaces, so I have always been really interested in materials. For that particular project I was making my own pigments to print with and to cast into solid surfaces.  

So, it was through my time experimenting at university that I came to set up my first business – it was almost an accidental process, but one that I love so much; being hands-on, making and experimenting is the best way for your work to really develop. 

Why did choose to study sustainability in business and what was the biggest lesson you learned? 

After graduating from my textile design course in 2014, I went straight into running my own studio. I worked with lots of interior designers and architects through my making process, and then for various reasons, I closed that studio. This was during the coronavirus pandemic, which was one of the factors, but I was also growing frustrated with how materials and sustainability were being discussed in the industry; I began to notice a big knowledge gap for sustainability within interior design, and it was then that I decided to have a break from what I was doing and retrain in sustainability and business.  

The biggest thing I took from my studies was acknowledging the complexity of the challenges that we face as designers. Particularly for new designers coming through, the breadth of knowledge that is required is very, very big. So, it’s a big challenge for students currently, but it's one that I think they are in a great position to take on; they're learning this stuff now – when I was at university, we didn't discuss the sustainability of materials at all – so while it is a broad and challenging subject, facing it and learning as much as possible is really vital.  

Your sustainability consultancy Do Not Go Gentle has a large Instagram following – how did you come to establish it and what has been the highlight of running it? 

I've always run my businesses through the same Instagram account, and so it was a transition from my old business into this new area of focus. But as I had the same client base of interior designers, architects, and other creative people interested in materials, they continued to follow me as they were still interested in what I have to share. So, a highlight of running this account is when people reach out and tell me how useful they’re finding the content, and how it's really helping them to decipher things. The purpose of my Instagram has changed a lot from when I originally started using it; it has gone from being about growth, to instead being about making meaningful connections and community engagement – that is the most interesting element of it for me. 

What do you enjoy most about being an Online Tutor on Falmouth’s online Interior Design BA degree? 

I love sharing knowledge, and I find the questions that the students have, and their interest and curiosity, to be really inspiring. I recently went to the in-person event for our course to run a workshop, and I got a lot of interaction and energy from the students who attended.  

I never claim to know everything about sustainable materials – it is such a broad area as I’ve mentioned – but I like to open up those conversations and be able to have non-judgemental discussions about it all.  

What piece of advice would you give to people considering a career in interior design? 

Studying interior design gives you such a broad set of skills; not only are you learning to design and be creative, but you’re also learning to use complex software, to project manage, to evaluate materials, to interact with clients and to present and put yourself out into the world. It’s such a broad discipline and your hard and soft skills are constantly building. 
So, while it's a very challenging subject, there are so many roots you can go down after you study. If you love the technical side, you can become a technical CAD designer. If you love the big ideas and concepts, you can lean into the research side of circularity and specifying materials. That's why it's such an exciting place to be.  

What’s next for you? 

I’m really excited about the development of new material production in the UK and Europe; there are all kinds of innovative materials that are coming through now, and new solutions being established. It's happening at quite a rapid pace, and I want to contribute to the articulation of that out into the design world. The wider public need to know what's going on, too, so I'm currently working on some educational pieces around that which are rather exciting. 


Instagram: @do_not_go_gentle_ 

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