Learning traditional weaving techniques

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Kristine showing the group different styles of weaved baskets

Last Thursday night the museum hosted a weaving workshop as part of our NAIDOC week program, led by Kristine Stewart from Boolang Nagamai Aboriginal Art and Culture Studio, who are based in Gerrigong on the NSW south coast.

Kristine is a Yuin woman and has lived up & down the south coast her whole life. She is also the daughter of Phyllis Stewart, whose artwork Interwoven features in our current exhibition Fish in Australian art.

Kristine started the workshop by telling us about her family and way of life on the south coast – close by the sea, but with a strong connection to land. She told us stories from her childhood fishing, picking vegetables with her grandfather and of course learning weaving techniques from her mother.

She then led us to her mother’s artwork Interwoven – a fibre mural that tells her family story through different motifs such as fishing spears and nets, the pea pods picked by her grandfather during picking season and many more layers of meanings. The main element of the fibre piece is the shape of a tree, with each branch providing a frame to present part of the family story.

In the practical part of the workshop, Kristine showed us how to make two of the elements that feature in the artwork – a woven circle (or pendant) and string.

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Making string

I’ve participated in a number of weaving workshops to learn about traditional weaving techniques and I’m always reminded of the fundamental importance of making string. And it’s always something I just can’t get the hang of making! But with Kristine’s patience and expert help, my string making was a success for the first time!

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Making the circle pendant

The method of making the circular form, which I initially thought would be challenging, turned out to be quite straight forward, using a series of blanket stitches around a bundled ring of raffia – and so satisfying to see the shape taking form before my eyes.

I think all of the workshop attendees were quite impressed that we mastered two techniques by the end of the night. We all walked away inspired to experiment with materials and methods. This idea of experimentation was encouraged by Kristine when showing us examples of work from the Boolang Nagamai artists. Starting with traditional materials and styles of baskets, she then moved on to show us baskets and jewellery pieces made from synthetic materials or fibres sourced from different parts of the globe.

A big thank you to Kristine for such a lovely evening.

Images have been published with the consent of Kristine Stewart.