Aboriginal Australians make up the world’s oldest continuous culture, their practices have been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. The Wadawurrung people, the traditional owners of the Ballarat region, have many stories to tell through their crafts.
Traditional skills, such as weaving, will tell some of these Indigenous stories at the Craft Lab + Design Expo, part of the Ballarat Heritage Festival in May.
This expo is an initiative of the UNESCO Creative City of Craft & Folk Arts program, where highly skilled practitioners will trace their heritage through the language of their crafts.
This two-weekend event will represent up to 18 different trades, makers and crafters. Visitors will walk through a curated exhibition of exemplary works and experience live demonstrations of their crafts. They will also be able to buy unique hand-crafted pieces straight from the makers.
Ballarat was designated a UNESCO Creative City of Craft and Folk Art in 2019. This important designation focuses the city’s attention on the development of a resilient and sustainable creative sector, with a specific focus on crafts and folk art. It has also focused attention on retracing the steps of the First Nations peoples of the land on which Ballarat sits.
The Craft Lab + Design Expo will have a spotlight on First Nations creatives, in particular, Indigenous crafts specific to the Ballarat region.
Watch the intricate task of weaving eel traps and join in a rare chance to help craft a ceremonial possum skin cloak for our community.
One of the local Indigenous makers who will be at the expo is award-winning basket weaver Tammy Gilson.
A proud Wadawurrung ba-gurrk (woman), Tammy lives and works on Wadawurrung Country, the indigenous land on which Ballarat stands. Her woven objects and cultural adornments have garnered her awards for her passion and craft.
Tammy’s pieces are predominantly made from plant materials sourced from Wadawurrung Country such as flax, sedge and grass tree.
“My weaving practice is an awakening of missed generational knowledge that translates into my creations,” Tammy said.
“It is very healing to weave and feels like I was chosen by the ancestors to do so.”
Tammy explained how her creativity was influenced by the people in her life, including her creative family, as well as her surroundings.
“I am inspired by country I walk, the trees, the birds, the animals and the plants,” she said.
Tammy’s hope is for her work to continue her rich heritage and the Indigenous cultural practice that was created by those who created before her.
“I feel so blessed to be able to showcase and demonstrate my culture through the pieces I create,” she said.
“I am happy to have an honest yarn and share my knowledge on cultural practices.
“We all know our culture is the oldest living culture in the world and I think to be respectful, Indigenous heritage should be acknowledged and celebrated through the festival.
“It also will give you a sense of belonging knowing your on Wadawurrung country, my ancestor’s country.
“I am looking forward to getting out and meeting people and seeing what our city presents.”
The Craft Lab + Design Expo is part of the Ballarat Heritage Festival, running from May 7 to 30.
Ballarat Mining Exchange
12 Lydiard Street North
Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 May
Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 May
10:00am – 5:00pm (3 ticketed sessions per day)
FREE for all ages
Wheelchair access is available via the Front and Back doors. The venue is fully accessible complete with amenities and dedicated seating options.