Edition 10 — Flash Minky
Flash Minky feature! The brand that weaves social and environmental change into blankets. We spoke to Emilia Galatis about the power of blankets and the artists behind them.
This week we have the delight of writing about Flash Minky, a brand that creates and curates textiles featuring limited edition prints by Australia’s top tier indigenous artists. We spoke with Emilia Galatis, Flash Minky Founder, about the ethos behind the brand, how the brand came into being, and the power of blankets.
If you like what you read, consider subscribing for £3.50 a month to receive Sprout bonus posts. In our next bonus post, we include the recording of our chats with Emilia which means you can hear about the brand first-hand. Make a cup of tea, press play, and it’s like you’re with us in the room.
Treasuring the environment is important to Australians, but for traditional owners of the land, it’s a sacred act. Historical sites are spiritual and reinforce the importance of place in indigenous cultures and narratives. The Juukan Gorge is an example of an ancient and sacred site, filled with artefacts that date over 28,000 years old. In May 2020, mining company Rio Tinto detonated explosives into the Juukan Gorge, despite having known about the significance of the site since 2004.
“Months on, reverberations from the Juukan blasts are still being felt. They ripple through us and touch at the very core of what it means to be human; to know and understand our history, and our existence in harmony with the places we inhabit”, writes Louella Hayes for Artist Profile. Louella’s article is reflective, insightful, and worth sharing, so we’ve included a link to it below.
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Lead image: Ben Ward, Goorloordoordoog (Dunham River Country) and Ngarralja Tommy May, The Billabong Blanket
Image via Flash Minky
“English is incapable of describing our relationship to the land of our ancestors. We decided to … [describe] it in a way we hoped non-Aboriginal people would understand; through pictures. If they wouldn’t listen to our words, they might try and understanding our paintings.”
- Galarrwuy Yunupingu, 1989
Having worked with indigenous artists and remote communities in Western Australia for well over a decade, Emilia Galatis wants to shift the way mainstream audiences view and engage with indigenous art. Enter: Flash Minky, a brand that creates unique soft furnishings in collaboration with blue-chip indigenous artists.
Flash Minky evolved through countless conversations and cups of tea with artists. The brand came into being as a solution for artists to earn passive income from a product that was environmentally sustainable. “The artists that I work with have obviously been looking after their country areas for over 60,000 years and so they are not a culture of wasters. They’ve had a long genesis of caring for places,” Emilia explains.
Artists submit an image of their work that is then licensed for 100 prints, or, 100 blankets. The image is woven into a blanket using recycled cotton. It’s kind of like buying an artist’s print as opposed to a painting, but for textiles. They include Minnie Lumai, Ben Ward, Betty Bundamurra, Louise Malarvie, John Price Siddon, Ngarralia Tommy May, Sonia Kurarra, and Tywrone Waigana. To be clear, paintings by these artists are generally not affordable for the average Joe or Jane. In creating these products, each artist is ultimately able to offer the market a product that is both affordable and accessible.
Much like the works themselves, the concept of a blanket is steeped with meaning and representation. “Blankets are a form of currency in remote communities,” Emilia explains. In all their brightly coloured glory they have cultural significance and power in expressing individuality.
Blankets are gifted at funerals, used when travelling, and are treasured for life. For Flash Minky artists, it means they can engage with their work in new ways by wearing it, and keeping it. Conversely, most paintings they make are replaced by a cheque and sent off into the world.
Flash Minky celebrates the diversity of place, region, culture, individuals, and artistic expression. Having worked within the sector for a long time, Emilia has observed the hesitation people often encounter when engaging with indigenous art.
She sees Flash Minky as an opportunity to “mobilise unfamiliar narratives and get this beautiful art to people’s houses”. Blankets don’t carry the baggage of interpretation or knowledge; it’s less daunting to buy a blanket than it is a painting.
Indigenous artists have, from the very beginning, been making art. The early incentive for selling Arnhem Land bark paintings and acrylic Western Desert dot paintings was to earn money in telling non-indigenous people about each artist's land rights and cultural heritage. A visual representation of history and ownership.
Artist Minnie Lumai tells stories through her work. “My paintings are about the stories of my country and culture - the way the land is from the dreaming and where we travel to hunt and fish.” In Minnie’s piece, Bubble Bubble (pictured above) the playful shapes she creates truly are reminiscent of bubbles; floating together in a fluid motion. Ochre colours and shades of white evoke a distant memory of water lapping at the edge of land.
Not all stories are for sharing, though. Some, like the land, are sacred. Telling a story that is not your ancestral rite to share is considered risky and dangerous. Ngarralja Tommy May tells ‘easy stories’ that can be shared, not cultural secrets. Most of his later works are Dreamtime narratives enmeshed with his lived experiences and connections to place. The Billabong Blanket (pictured below) is an example of this.
Emilia describes the artists she has worked with as “Very savvy and entrepreneurial as to what their skills are…[they] see art-making and creativity as intrinsic to their existence but also this incredible culture that we’ve really only scratched the surface of understanding”.
On the mainstream representation of indigenous art, she says “I think the way it’s been marketed and promoted over the last 40 years has been really poor, and it hasn’t done the diversity of the country any good, but we are in really exciting times”. She goes on to describe a new wave of younger and older artists who recognise their power in expressing individuality in their artwork as a matter of urgency, not reliant on the market.
Brands like Flash Minky help indigenous artists in these endeavours by championing their work whilst simultaneously ensuring they are properly financially rewarded. It is this—aside from the aesthetics and creative freedom of the products—that is most striking about the brand.
100% net profits from sales go directly to the artist, which is significantly more than they are used to receiving for sales of their work. Although it is not necessarily a sustainable business model in the long term, it represents a shift within the indigenous art sector.
What is next for Flash Minky? Aside from evolving with how artists would like to grow, Emilia stresses the importance of art as an agent of change toward greater cultural awareness and knowledge. Speaking on the difference between regions in the Kimberley, she says she wants people to understand the diversity of geographical regions and creative communities within the area.
Images from top to bottom:
John Price Siddon, Panic!
John Price Siddon, The Great Escape
Betty Bundamurra, Kira Kiro Spirits
Minnie Lumai, Bubble Bubble
Ngarralja Tommy May, The Billabong Blanket
Louise Malarvie, Milk Water
Ben Ward, Goorloordoordoog (Dunham River Country)
All images courtesy the artist and Flash Minky
Louella Hayes recently wrote Lessons in Loss: The Juukan Gorge for Artist Profile.
“Months on, reverberations from the Juukan blasts are still being felt. They ripple through us and touch at the very core of what it means to be human; to know and understand our history, and our existence in harmony with the places we inhabit”.
Thanks for reading!