Doreen Driffen is an artist who is from the Watarrka (Kings Canyon) region in the Northern Territory. Predominantly she created hand painted seed jewellery. To make these pieces, first she goes out into the bush to collect the seeds from the trees native to the area around her home community – usually either gumnuts from the eucalyptus tree, ininti seeds from the bat wing coral tree or quandong nuts. Next she makes a hole in each seed using wire heated in the fire, then places each bead on a stick in the sand, and paints each with with up to 6 different colours, waiting paitiently for each colour to dry before moving onto the next. The final step is threading it on to elastic, and the whole process takes many hours. With no formal training in either jewellery making or design, Doreen is a gifted artist, with a real eye for colour and a creative understanding of pattern making. Each piece she makes is a work of wearable art.
Tjanpi (meaning ‘dry grass’) evolved from a series of basket weaving workshops held on remote communities in the Western Desert by the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunyjatjara Womens’ Council in 1995. Building on traditions of using fibre for medicinal, ceremonial and daily purposes, women took easily to making coiled baskets. These new-found skills were shared with relations on neighbouring communities and weaving quickly spread. Today there are over 400 women across 28 communities making baskets and sculptures out of grass and working with fibre in this way is firmly embedded in Western and Central Desert culture. While out collecting desert grasses for their fibre art women visit sacred sites and traditional homelands, hunt and gather food for their families and teach their children about country. Tjanpi Desert Weavers is Aboriginal owned and is directed by an Aboriginal executive. It is an arts business but also a social enterprise that provides numerous social and cultural benefits and services to weavers and their families. Tjanpi’s philosophy is to keep culture strong, maintain links with country and provide meaningful employment to the keepers and teachers of the desert weaving business.