August 2018: The Bradshaw rock art and weaving in the studio

A trip away and then a week of studio class has resulted in a very late blog.

In the main, I only report on textile related matters and of course weaving on my blog. So you will not be seeing images from The Kimberley in N W Australia. It is extremely remote and has featured on my wish list for many years. It would not even rate a mention here apart from an unexpected and amazing encounter with ancient Aboriginal rock art.

We were headed up that dotted road heading north on the map to Mitchell Plateau and Ngauwudu Safari Camp. The road is not for the faint hearted (understatement). A turn off brought us to a significant Aboriginal rock art location. There are no fences or glass panels around this art but once you are here, it is extremely accessible. That in itself was great for us for viewing but with a significant concern for the preservation of the art. My later research pointed out that: In a detailed study of 66 Bradshaw panels, approximately 9% of the Bradshaw images have clearly been vandalized. Some were scratched with stones, some damaged by thrown stones, and some have been broken by hammering with large rocks.* There’s a fine of $2,000 and 12 months imprisonment for interfering with cultural heritage sites. Another cause of destruction is back burning. Since 2009 as part of the government’s fire prevention strategy to aid the exploitation of oil and gas reserves has caused paint to peel from over 5,000 of the 8,742 known examples of Bradshaw art. A survey by archaeologist Lee Scott-Virtue has determined that up to 30 per cent of the rock art had been completely destroyed by fire.* In the light of these facts I consider myself very fortunate to have seen these.

We were in Wunambel Gaambera Country. There were several styles of art here but of particular interest for me were what westerners known as the “Bradshaw rock art” after the pastoralist who discovered them in 1891. As the Kimberley is home to various Aboriginal language groups, the rock art is referred to and known by many different Aboriginal names, the most common of which are Gwion Gwion or Giro Giro

The Gwion Gwion are at the bottom of this image. The rock art at the top is from a later time.

It is common to have later paintings drawn over the top of Gwion Gwion. These later paintings are often not as permanent with the ochres wearing off. We only saw Gwion Gwion with only two colours though it is thought that many more were originally used. The pigments in these two colours have been chemically bonded with the rock. Research suggests that it is the result of symbiotic relationship between black fungi and red bacteria.*

This example shows the style known as the Tassel Figures and identified by their characteristic tassels hanging from their arms and waists, various other accessories can be recognised, such as arm bands, conical headdresses and boomerangs. This style is the earliest, most detailed and largest. It has been dated as up to 22,000 years old from a fossilised wasp nest.

These are finely executed drawings. The lines are fine. It is possible that a feather was used in their execution; an imprint of a feather found at one site may support this possibility*. There is no evidence of several tries being attempted in their execution. They would require an extraordinary amount of skill.

Wayne, our guide, pointed out that these are not the oldest rock art paintings (earlier crude drawings are up to 40,000 years old) but they are the oldest that represent ceremony and therefore well- established culture. This can be deduced from the postures of the figures. By the way, the well- known cave paintings of Lascaux,  France are thought to be 20,000 years old and are of animals.

So why am I so excited by this art? Here’s my observation: If, as Wayne suggests that Gwion Gwion is the earliest known rock art (world- wide?) where the human form is shown performing ritual, then doesn’t it also follow that these are the earliest rock art paintings that include textiles as part of ceremony. Well, tassels of some form are a textile aren’t they?

Additional information on the Bradshaw Rock Art and selected quotes* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradshaw_rock_paintings

Update: I have had a private email and whether I got any sense of a fringe/skirt and the formation of the tassels and whether it was too hard to see. Here are my comments as it was such a great question.

I gained the impression from both my research following and from what Wayne said that these are not “skirts” in the traditional sense and the figures are likely to be men. Women are drawn differently. I understand that these fringed ornaments/aka “skirts” are for ceremony and perhaps not daily use. I couldn’t see any detail but I presume they would be of twisted grass/bark or some fibre with an object on the end. You can gain a sense of what some of the objects were from the paintings. Remember some of the original pigments didn’t last so not all detail is here. These are 20,000+ years old and have been exposed to the elements somewhat so we’re lucky to be seeing anything. It’s mind blowing (a) what they are and the detail, (b) the subject matter and (c) that they are still around. Amazing, truly amazing!

Then reality returns. I have just completed a studio class in Doubleweave. There were three wonderful students: Jan, Barbara and Karen, who accepted the challenge of drafting, theory and completed some great work. A wide variety of techniques were explored. Even small samples have the potential to be turned into drink coasters. The following are images from the class.

Four versions from the one threading. The students developed the pattern on the loom.

Different aspects appealed to each student. While some projects are similar, others are quite different.

Karen’s collection.


Barbara’s collection.

Jan’s collection.

Jan and Barbara model their scarves.

Sometimes in a studio class, a student will come with an idea to explore. Karen brought one such project. She wanted to weave a dishcloth…. Yes a dish cloth! She wondered if her Vavbo Lin dish cloth from Sweden could be interpreted into double weave.  It is marketed as a very hygienic way to wash up with the natural qualities of linen meaning that they can be laundered over and over again, becoming softer and more supple with age. And when they eventually wear out, they can be compostable. She has acquired several but as a weaver thought it would be nice if she could weave her own version.

It caught our imagination. This is our version of a dish cloth. It has some elements of the original.

Karen weaving her dish cloth.

It is woven in linen.

We intend it to be compostable. We will avoid all micro fibre dish cloths in our kitchens in future.

It has an open weave body as the result of a stitched double weave structure. The stitching happens on the diagonal.

The selvedges and hem are in plain weave to give stability to the open structure of the main cloth.

We intend it to be compostable. We will not be adding to land fill or pollution.

It will be easily washed and quick to dry because of the linen and the open structure.

We know that it will be serviceable. Even though the structure is open the stitching provides a well- integrated cloth. Nothing will get caught between layers.

We intend it to be compostable. It is a plant fibre and will break down.

It has texture- ideal as a dish cloth. It is also flexible and will become increasingly so with wear and washing.

The double weave layers will enhance the absorbency of the linen.

And it will go into the compost after its lifetime of being useful!

I think I’m hooked on these. They’ll be a great addition in my kitchen.

Update: Charlene has requested details of the draft. I believe that this is such a great thing for the environment that I am happy to share. If you share it please acknowledge the fact that it is my draft. Here is the basic draft. Shafts 7&8 are for the selvedge. Repeat the rest of the draft as required for your width, sett and yarn. Weave plain weave for the hems.

Next month’s studio class: Colour in Weaving. We’ll be exploring colour theory, colour and weave effects including log cabin and shadow weave amongst other structures. There’ll also be the opportunity to explore dyeing techniques such as painted warps or skeins, ikat and how to use these. And perhaps we’ll even get to use the newly acquired fan reed. There is currently 2 places left. 1-5 October.

The BYO loom series starts on the 24th September. It will be held on the 4th Monday of the month finishing in November.

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4 Responses to August 2018: The Bradshaw rock art and weaving in the studio

  1. Ann Brown says:

    It must have been an amazing experience Kay.

    Cheers Ann

    On Sat, Sep 8, 2018 at 8:35 PM, Kay Faulkner’s Blog wrote:

    > kayfaulkner posted: “A trip away and then a week of studio class has > resulted in a very late blog. In the main, I only report on textile related > matters and of course weaving on my blog. So you will not be seeing images > from The Kimberley in N W Australia. It is extremely ” >

  2. charlene schurch says:

    Love the Linen dish cloth – will you share the draft/instructions? What a brilliant idea.

    • kayfaulkner says:

      Because I think this is so right for the environment, I will update the blog to include the draft. I am happy to share and for you to share but please acknowledge my draft as being mine.

  3. charlene schurch says:

    Thank you for the update!!

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