Beautiful butterflies and fluttering fabrics

Beautiful butterflies and fluttering fabrics

Jon Solmundson

Textile and fabric designs were the medium at work in the incredible youth coordinated “Beautiful Butterfly Women” program to help young Aboriginal women around Geraldton revitalise and celebrate their cultural connections.

Planned as a series of weekly workshops over a 6 month period, Drug Aware YCulture Regional project coordinators Lily-mae Kerley and Amber Cane organised to have local artists Charmaine Green and Nicole Dickerson facilitate and teach the young women the finer points of screen printing, fabric arts and garment design.

One of the workshops focused on salt drying, where rock salt is used to absorb dye and create unique patterns. Picture by Lily-mae Kerley.

Even for those whose artistic interests lived outside of textile work, the project was planned to conclude in a showcase that incorporated visual arts, cultural dance and music – elements which also gave local young men a chance to participate in the project.

Drug Aware YCulture Regional is a program that empowers young artists and artsworkers aged 12-26 to run projects that support the skills development of other young regional Western Australians.

“Already this project has given me, Amber and Allee skills such as how to approach funding agencies and make grant applications, gather letters of support and work with our local Aboriginal Art centre. I have also learn how to create a budget and gather costs associated with materials and supplies for the project,” says young Project Coordinator Lily Mae Kerley.

“While coordinating this project [I learned] how to facilitate and plan a workshop, give direction to a group of younger girls, provide feedback, mentor them, support them with anything they needed and the ability to talk in front of others.”

Drying off the salted scarves. Picture by Lily-mae Kerley.

The local Aboriginal arts centre, Yamaji Art, welcomed the girls in to provide space for the workshops, also supporting the two young coordinators in sourcing supplies and negotiating prices for materials.

The young coordinators were also able to collaborate with the Yamaji Girl Project, drawing in a regular crowd for their weekly workshops.

After the project Lily-mae weighed in on the workshop’s results:

“Throughout the program the girls designed and created their outfits for the showcase, in the last few weeks they began to refine their fabrics and jewellery and started to practice walking on the runway to showcase their fabrics.

“On the last few days we set up the runway for the girls at our local youth centre, Geraldton Street work Aboriginal Corporation, and on the night the girls showcased all their handmade garments such as scarves, dresses, tops and woven jewellery to the community.

“So I do definitely think that the project was successful because we got to our end goal which was to showcase all the hard work that the girls did over the 8 weeks. The young girls also grew in their confidence with a few of them now continuing with arts, specifically textiles.

“Some of the good things that were brought to the community from this project are working with youth from an at risk community, connection to culture, storytelling, more self confidence gained, leading to further opportunities; for example a few girls have joined Yamaji Art as artists, which led to one going over to Darwin to go watch the Darwin fashion show and assist with selling art work at Yamaji Art’s booth at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair.”

Bleach reduction was also taught in the youth-coordinated textile workshops. Pciture by Lily-mae Kerley.

In the future Lily-mae says she’s hoping to do even more textile projects with girls.

“I’d like to take it further by sewing their fabrics into simple garments such as skirts, sarongs, scarves and kimonos even make them into and accessories like handbags, purses, woven jewellery and head pieces.”

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