Australian fieldnotes: felting together

‘I know where I come from thanks to my stepmother, family and elders. I’m so proud for being an Aboriginal artist, to share my culture with you and your good friends that have come a long way from their homes across the sea. What a great time it was – best! – to learn something new.’ (Participant, Fowlers Bay, 2016)

The rich experiences of the past week made me realise how fortunate I am to be able to combine my art and research activities. During the art camp ‘Artists from the edges of the world’ in Fowlers Bay, South Australia, I had the opportunity to work with about fourty Aboriginal, Australian and international artists. We shared making and storytelling in moments that were rich and layered like the collaborative felts we created. Twelve years ago during an artist residency in Finland and Lapland I learned how to felt and this week I had the opportunity to share my skills with Anangu artists. This was my way to give something from myself to the Anangu women who shared their weaving skills and culture with the International visitors.

We enjoyed simple skills sharing and transfer while having fun! During the first two days we produced several colourful individual pieces, giving the makers the opportunity to learn basic felting skills and familiarize themselves with the material (Australian Merino wool). Women produced these small felts around the themes of change and how women cope with change. During the third day we worked together producing two large participatory pieces around the theme of togetherness. The Anangu artists presented a design that we produced as a group, while the second felt allowed participants to add individual symbols and messages, resulting in a vibrant and dynamic two-dimensional felt. The outcome of the felts will be stitched together to form a larger exhibition piece.

By Melanie Sarantou

photo credits: daria akimenko

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