Selling Yarns 3 Weaving the Nations Story, Canberra March 2013

I watched the ants, the big jumping ants as they went on their business. “What you looking at?” she asked, “I’m watching ants, I like watching ants”  I replied. “Me too”  said the woman. “ Sometimes at home I give an ant a crumb and follow them to see where they go” she said. That was the dialogue that connected me as I walked on a tour of Tidbinbilla National Park as part of the Selling Yarns program.

I am 5th generation non-indigenous Australian and have wondered five states in my 40 years of life. So I wonder where is my country, my home. This brought me to Selling Yarns 3 which is a conference and group of workshops and exhibitions that join indigenous and non-indigenous to talk about Traditional and Contemporary Art and Craft. A mixture of Artists, Museum Curators, Gallery Owners, Business people, Academics, share their studies, research, relationships, marketing, business strategies and managing the logisitics of making traditional and contemporary art and craft.

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I have listened, laughed and at times been moved to tears by these presentations, I wonder where do I fit into this. How does my own love of making using traditional materials and techniques and desire to connect to where I live fit in. In part I think the seed was planted in my heart when I was a small child and lived on a remote Indigenous Island, and some of our time was spent sitting around with the women as they gathered, dug, prepared and weaved.

Gaps in my knowledge of technique have been complemented by short courses and you tube, so how do I now bring this all together. My internal conflict about how do I honour and respect the traditions of where my practice comes from, whilst I have no direct cultural ties to this knowledge. I am a non-indigenous woman that makes and shares the techniques and knowledge I have with others to keep these hand crafts alive.

The reasons I make become clearer, it makes me stop and look and connect to where I am, as I walk  I am always looking for plants, materials to weave stitch or dye with. When I use these materials it connects me to my place, I make new stories with my work, about me and my everyday life. Process records, the school drop off in my morning routine, walking the dog in the back paddock and the storm that blew down the tree and vines. The events can be captured in my stitching and weaving.

So I sit and wonder how do I honour the knowledge and materials that I use, in my developing art practice. I have no culture or traditional elders that are my own. I don’t want to mistakenly take of anothers culture and call it my own, but I do want to acknowledge that what I do belongs to the country and grounds me and makes me feel like I belong somewhere.  I am borrowing all of this for my own journey and to record my own story. The need for belonging burns in most people, I feel like I belong somewhere when I sit and make.

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