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Alison Page was interviewed by Ray Edgar from The Age newspaper, discussing the Indigenous perspective on Design
Alison Page offers a simple premise: ”What would the Australian lounge-room look like if it was designed from an Aboriginal perspective?”
Page is perhaps the most high profile of the new generation of designers promoting Aboriginal culture.
”It’s all about stories,” she says. It might be the Milky Way in Lucy Simpson’s fabrics or the abundant seed pods in Brentyn Lugnan’s lace curtains. These abstract patterns inspired by dreaming stories reflect the ongoing nature of kinship bound by storytelling. The fact that the stories from Simpson’s Yuwaalaraay heritage or Lugnan’s Gumbaynggirr ancestors now appear in domestic environments where people gather only reinforces that notion.
”I love to say ‘Aboriginal design isn’t a new thing’,” says Simpson, the creative force behind the label Gaawaa Miyay. ”It’s been something that’s been perfected over thousands of years. But people are recognising it now and becoming aware of it.”
National touring exhibitions such as Cusp and the first Australian Indigenous Fashion Week in April, help magnify the profile of Aboriginal design, Fabia Pryor says. A sustainable business consultant, she specialises in ethical and indigenous fashion and textiles. According to Pryor, the Aboriginal design business is ”biting at the heels” of the multimillion-dollar Aboriginal art industry.
”The industry is at the cusp and about to become much more commercial,” she says.
A former panellist on the ABC’s New Inventors, Page is an award-winning designer and executive officer of the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance, a not for profit organisation governed by 10 local Aboriginal land councils on the mid-NSW coast.
Two years ago Page established the National Aboriginal Design Agency as the commercial arm of the alliance. As its creative director she helps broker commercial partnerships. Clients include Westpac, for whom NADA is doing a fit-out at Barangaroo. Meanwhile several NADA artists feature in Cusp.
”It’s about looking at the Australian style and honouring the fact that Aboriginal art and storytelling should be central to the Australian style,” says Page, a descendant of the Walbanga and Wadi Wadi people of the Yuin nation.
Even the most highly functional objects such as the boomerang have a story carved into them, she says. ”It builds preciousness into objects. So the cups we use every day, the carpets we walk on, everything around you in your home, if it has a greater level of meaning to you it speaks to you, then it’s going to be more precious. It’s not a throwaway item.”
Page sees Aboriginal design as ”a great opportunity for Australian manufacturers to get in with something innovative and be the first to market with something that has a global appeal. There’s a push away from the generic”.
For all this enthusiasm, Victorian indigenous design is lagging, says Tracey-Lea Smith, manager of Baluk Arts on the Mornington Peninsula. ”Melbourne is seen as a mecca of design yet how come we are so behind when it comes to working with Aboriginal artists and design?” she asks.
In the long-term, Smith believes the mainstreaming of Aboriginal design may help change perceptions of the value and variety of indigenous people’s work. ”[Baluk Arts] has 2.5 million tourists a year and the majority walk out because they haven’t seen a dot painting,” says Smith.
Page agrees. ”I love challenging that more than anything,” she says. ”The thing people find most surprising about my aesthetic is that it’s very clean and very minimal and quite abstract – it’s not just about animal totems or dots because there is such diversity within Aboriginal art. We need to bring that aesthetic to the design world.
”I would like to create objects that have an incredible meaning that people would want to keep for 40,000 years.”
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Alison Page talks about Aboriginal Design and ‘keeping it real” with Bridie Henehan from Inspire Magazine.
Alison Page, Creative Director of the National Aboriginal Design Agency (NADA). Image courtesy of NADA.
Sitting in the Coffs Harbour office of the National Aboriginal Design Agency its Creative Director Alison Page is smiling broadly and shaking her head. She has been sharing images and samples from the extensive and eye-catching range of contemporary Aboriginal interior design products and homewares the agency has under development. ‘I know, it’s unreal, right?’ she says.
‘Unreal’ too, says Alison are the collaborative artistic and strategic business partnerships NADA is forming, which it hopes will move Aboriginal design to the forefront of Australia’s built environment and interior design industry.
Such partnerships brokered between the Aboriginal artists that NADA represents and Australian manufacturers will enable the artists’ designs to be realised as carpets, lighting, furniture, textiles and architectural products.
Or, as Alison describes it: “objects with stories, architecture with a soul”.
‘Co-creating – it’s my favourite word of the moment’, said Alison. ‘It’s about partnerships; formal and informal partnerships, people coming together and asking “what can we do?” It’s having that blank piece of paper sitting in front of you, and going for it’.
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In this article by Women’s Agenda editor Angela priestly, the winner of the Emerging Leader in the NFP/Public Sector Award at the 2013 NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards explains how she juggles her leadership career with being a mum, and why the best help you can get often comes from your own open-ended questions.
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Breathing Hope into our Community
If you have ever opened the paper or turned on the news and seen a story about Aboriginal Australians that just made you want to weep with hopelessness and despair, then you need to spend an hour with Alison Page.
She is a tonic, a genuine breath of hope with the outlook and energy to change the world.
To read the full article on Alison Page please follow this link
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Alison Page was interviewed by Geraldine Coutts from ABC Radio about her placement in the Murra Indigenous Master Class Program
The MURRA Indigenous Business Master Class Program is a six session series of classes for established Indigenous Australian business owners and leaders run over the course of six months. Each session is run intensively over two days and the program is open to applicants from all parts of Australia.
Alison graduated from Murra in August, Congratulations Alison and all the graduating participants!
Please listen to the interview by following this link to ABC Radio
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National Aboriginal Design Agency is featured in the current edition of Inside Magazine
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The question posed to them was ‘Can design change communities?‘
The series of train talks organised by Object Australian Design Centre were part of the CUSP: Designing in to the Next Decade public program, promoting the CUSP exhibition and engaging public in design thinking.
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The Weekend Australian Magazine 10 questions: Alison Page, interior designer, 39 by Jill Rowbotham
Alison Page: “We are not going to get interesting designers if they all come from the middle class.” Picture: Renee Nowytarger Source: The Australian
YOU moved up the coast from Sydney to Coffs Harbour with your English mother and four sisters when you were nine. When did you become interested in design?
I won a Lego competition when I was 12, at the main shopping centre, with a housing estate I built to scale. I became interested in architecture, design and model-making. Later I built models for my friend’s father, who was a local builder.
Why did you choose design as a career?
I chose a career I knew would have a job at the end of the training, but in which I could still be creative. The most valuable thing about it is that it taught me to think laterally and to solve problems with creativity in all aspects of my life.
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If you haven’t already encountered Alison Page, that would be a surprise. She appeared for eight years as a regular panellist on the ABC show, The New Inventors. As a descendant of the Walbanga and Wadi Wadi people of the Yuin nation and as a leading force in the Australian design scene, she champions contemporary creative expression of Aboriginal identity.
A business owner and mother, Alison maintains a head-spinning schedule of commitments. She injects her passion and distinctively modern perspective into designing her award-winning jewellery label Diamond Dreaming, directing the annual Aboriginal culture festival Saltwater Freshwater held in her adopted home on the Mid North Coast, her role as the EO of the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance, being a creative director at the Aboriginal Design Agency in Coffs Harbour and participating in an expert advisory panel appointed by Prime Minister Gillard as a part of the Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous People.
Drawing on an inexhaustible wellspring of creative energy, she’s a deadly woman and she has more in store for us yet.
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“This type of exploitation of our treasured Aboriginal Artists is the reason why we established the National Aboriginal Design Agency. Aboriginal artists have the right to economically benefit from the international thirst for Aboriginal art and storytelling, particularly as it moves into the built environment and design. We have been working closely with Aboriginal intellectual property lawyer, Terri Janke on a best practice licensing model that would make the process of Aboriginal artists and hotel designers collaborating streamlined and fair. Give us a call Bibi Barba, we would love to represent you!” Alison Page, Aboriginal Interior Designer and Creative Director of the National Aboriginal Design Agency.
GUESTS at the Eclipse Hotel in Domaslaw, Poland, may be surprised to learn that its cutting-edge interior design is based on work by an Aboriginal artist.
They may be even more surprised to discover that Bibi Barba, the artist whose Desert Flowers series of paintings are copied in the hotel’s carpets, cafe tables and wall panels, did not give permission for her artwork to be used in this way.
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