Cloth Cuts

Val Smith Art

Meet the Artist

Today we sit down with one of our amazing Indigenous Artists, Val from Val Smith Art. We learn all about her and her art as well as gaining a better understanding of First Nation artwork and how we can show our support to the community.

Cloth Cuts works closely with each First Nation artist on team to convert their original artwork into seamless tiles appropriate for fabric printing. Artists are consulted throughout the process to ensure that their work, story and meaning is not affected by the conversion.

We, as Allies, want to provide First Nation artists with a platform to sell their work amongst a wide community of sewists. Artists receive royalties when their designs are purchased, so each order placed supports them directly.

Hey Val! We’re thrilled to have you on team at Cloth Cuts. Thanks so much for taking the time from your busy day to answer a few questions for us.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a Bundjalung woman from the Widjabul people of Lismore NSW. I come from a family of 16 and have 4 children of my own. I have been a primary school teacher for the past 13 years but have always worked with children in other various roles. My hobbies include long early morning walks, photography and painting.

How long have you been painting for?

I started painting in March this year after the horrific Lismore floods. I was absolutely devastated, I needed to move emotions and usually take photos to do so but the scenery and people of Lismore were so broken that I couldn’t bring myself to photograph anything or anyone. I am self taught and enjoying experimenting with various styles and textures.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I paint to move feelings. I paint to tell stories and I paint to express myself. I find inspiration in my daily life with my family and natural environmental surroundings. My heart has many stories to share.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve seen your artwork on?

My painting journey so far has been unbelievable! I have so many favourites but absolutely love my Boogle Jarjums throw rug.

Can you tell us a bit about some of your prints?

Sky Above Me, Fire Inside Me and Earth Below Me are a 3-piece set. They are inspired by our connection to our country. In times of needing healing and direction, we as Indigenous People turn to country for reassurance and direction. We fill our spirit with signs from country and remember our ancestral strength.

Let Them Dream is a piece representing belief in our Jarjums. The bright colours represent allowing Jarjums to follow their dreams. Circular patterns show how beliefs we form in early childhood inspire the life we live as adults.

Boogle Jarjums represents a happy, joyful childhood. It shows protection and love.

Do all First Nation art have stories and meanings behind it?

I can’t speak for all First Nations artwork but I do believe our artwork is used to tell stories or share experiences.

If the artist hasn’t written a story for their art, is there a way we can understand the story ourselves?

If the artist hasn’t written a story to accompany their artwork I feel most people can interpret what the artist is trying portray through use of symbols, colours and origin of the artwork. Although meanings of symbols can vary depending on where the artist is from, there are similarities between a lot of Indigenous Nations, but it is best to know the origin of the artwork and the history of the artist before assuming anything regarding Indigenous artwork.

We asked Val if she could show us what common symbols she uses in her art

Is it okay for non-indigenous people to create art inspired by First Nation artwork?

Personally, I don’t think it’s ok. Our stories and symbols tell our stories and are important to us. We feel and live them. They don’t have the same importance to non-indigenous people. We feel them in our spirit.

Is it okay for non-indigenous people to display, sew with and wear indigenous art?

Personally, I feel it’s a beautiful thing for non-indigenous people to display, sew with and wear indigenous art. I see it as the beginning of understanding our beautiful culture and a step towards an acknowledgement of Indigenous history and the movement towards reconciliation.

How else can we show our support with First Nation artists?

People can show support through learning and sharing the Aboriginal history of Australia. Teach your Jarjums (kids) truth and share in our beautiful culture through song, dance, art and storytelling.

Cloth Cuts would like to show our respect and acknowledge the Turrbal people who are the Traditional Custodians of this land we live and work on.

We would also like to pay respect to the Elders, past, present and emerging.

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