Thelma Mclean was a Ngaanyatjarra woman who was born in the bush near Wanarn. Thelma once recalled that, ‘When I was very young I had two sisters (one passed away). My parents were very good teachers of culture and bush traditions, and I went to school at the Warburton Mission and enjoyed it very much. Holiday time I’d go back to Wanarn with them and we’d walk all the way. I also did some high school halfway through in Warburton, and I then worked in the hospital in Warburton. My mother passed away around this time. I married my husband and lived in Warburton for a long time and my children were all born there.’
Thelma was an accomplished and diverse artist, and along with fibre art she explored many different mediums including using wooden sculptures to express her creative talents.
However, it was in 1995 that Thelma first started making baskets after going to the first bush workshop held at Blackstone. ‘I made long pirti (coolamon) shaped ones and round ones with string and wool, and I used to send them on the mail plane to the Tjanpi office. Sometimes I decorated them’. Thelma was a very strong and respected community leader and was on many committees including the executive committees of Maruku Arts and the NPY Women’s Council. During the very early years of basket weaving on the Lands it was Thelma’s baskets that raised the standard for others to follow. Thelma’s weaving technique and practice was always of outstanding quality. She was a talented fibre artist with a strong affinity for the materials she used. She enjoyed making baskets as well as exploring sculptural forms and has been involved in many touring exhibitions.