Some months ago I interviewed Dr Bruce Carnie, a Lecturer in Textile Design at the University of Leeds, for the Design Routes research. I was interested in hearing about Bruce’s thoughts on working with traditional patterns, and the difference between ‘taking inspiration’ and ‘revitalising’.
Bruce spoke about his experiences as a teacher and also as a professional textile designer, working primarily in Australia. One of these experiences was a hands-on example of revitalisation he had been directly involved in. Here’s a brief summary of the story:
In the mid 1980s, Bruce spent three months working in an aboriginal community in the centre of Australia, Ernebella (now known as Pukatja) to engage the young people with silk-screen printing. Before travelling to the community, Bruce needed to learn the language, and gain an understanding of its culture.
Check out the incredible landscape!
The project aimed to support the young people to translate culturally significant patterns - originating in sand paintings - through silk screen printing. This craft was new to the community, although batik was well-established, having been introduced by a missionary some decades earlier.
Here are just a few of the designs created by the young people - with the girls, in particular, working with the traditional patterns:
Bruce explained that the experience of this project shaped his thinking about the moral issues surrounding the use of traditional patterns - and directly affected the way he approached briefs then given to him as a professional textile designer.
Many thanks to Bruce for sharing the story, and the slides. You can read more about arts in Pukatja on the fantastic Ernebella Arts website.