Willie Weston’s much-loved ‘Tiwi’ and ‘Ampilatwatja’ collections are now available on natural fabrics: a 100% linen (perfect for statement cushions and window furnishings), plus a heavyweight Belgian linen/cotton for upholstering the likes of sofas, chairs and day beds. Due to popular demand, both collections have also been released as wallpapers.
Based in Melbourne and printing locally, the social enterprise celebrates the diverse artistic output of Indigenous artists, and pay artists for each metre of fabric produced, providing ongoing income and supporting communities across remote Australia. ‘The artists we work with are the core of our business and our model reflects that,’ tells Laetitia. ‘We want to provide artists with additional income streams outside their main art practice, so that they can continue living and working on country,’ adds Jessica.
As the titles suggest, their current collections are developed from original artwork by four Indigenous artists hailing from the Tiwi Islands, in the Arafura Sea north of Darwin, and from Ampilatwatja, a remote desert community northeast of Alice Springs. ‘Each artwork draws on the artist’s cultural background and their country,’ explains Jessica. For example, Jean Baptiste Apuatimi’s Jilamara design is named after a Tiwi word that refers to the ochre patterning traditionally painted on the bodies of dancers and on carved poles during Pukumani ceremonies, and Osmond Kantilla’s Pandanus design represents the pointy leaves of the pandanus plant, a ubiquitous palm on the Islands. Meanwhile, Colleen Ngwarraye Morton’s Singing Bush Medicine design evokes a ceremony performed by women in Central Australia – by singing to their country they bring into existence and maintain local bush medicines and edible seeds.
Willie Weston’s contemporary, versatile range is also an effort to challenge preconceptions about Indigenous design. Laetitia and Jessica admit both of their own homes have (inadvertently) turned into showrooms, with the stain-repellent indoor/outdoor canvas being a godsend with their young kids!
The pair has been ‘up north’ recently developing new relationships with artists and art centres in Darwin. ‘Our mission is to celebrate the diversity of Indigenous artistic practice, and to integrate it into our built environments,’ tells Jessica. She also hints at new product ranges in the works – we’ll keep you posted!