fashion, art and a life-changing experience collide in a collaboration of clothes with heart

We speak to artist Lisa Waup about working with designer Ingrid Verner to create pieces layered with meaning in the wake of the Indigenous Runway.

by Briony Wright
23 March 2017, 3:20am

Lisa Waup is a Melbourne-based Gunditjmara and Torres Strait Islander artist who melds traditional art forms and methods with a contemporary practice to create distinctively original weavings and works on paper. As a baby Lisa was adopted out and separated from her family and wider tribe, her work has developed as a way of exploring the past and reattaching the fragments of her history. Using feathers and found objects, she creates tactile vessels and sweet yet unidentifiable pets that represent and dissect her unknown ancestral Indigenous history and symbolise her connection to nature and the land. Working across mediums, Lisa is also known for her intricate linear drawings, which are also full of personality and meaning. As an extension of her craft, Lisa is involved in a successful Indigenous arts centre called Baluk Arts, an initiative which encourages the maintenance of culture and economic advancement for Indigenous artists through the creation and sale of their art.

Now, as part of this year's Melbourne Fashion Festival, she has teamed up with celebrated Melbourne designer Ingrid Verner for a project at Craft Victoria which will see her prints transferred to fabric and crafted into a small collection of special garments. Ingrid, known for her intelligent design, creative use of material and eye for detail, has worked with and honoured Lisa's prints to inform the ultimate shape of each design. This collection marks a special partnership as the women have worked together to create garments that reflect the depth of meaning within Lisa's art. 

Showing the garments for the first time on the weekend at the Indigenous Runway, we caught up with Lisa to discuss her work, her thoughts on the project and creating clothing with ample heart. 

i-D: Can you tell us a bit about the art you typically create.
Lisa Waup: A lot of my work involves weaving but I also do works on paper. I'm actually a trained print maker and photographer, so it's kind of been a bit of an extension of that practice. The print series that I've created has a lot to do with layering and stitching, so it really corresponds very nicely with the weaving as well. It's all about domestication and cultural identity and a connection to country and searching for more information since I was adopted at birth. It's been a real investigation of that.

How has that investigation helped you to reconcile your experience?
For me a big part of it is that connection to nature and that connection to country. In my case it's always going to be very fragmented and I guess that also shows a lot in my work. I work with a lot of found objects that give me a connection to places I've been, so that's a big part of it. I like collecting from nature.

Home, emu feathers, king parrot feathers, wood, rock, 100% cotton, 29 x 20 x 12cm. Image courtesy of artist and Baluk Arts.

Is your work purely personal or do you have those who may have a shared experience in mind when you're creating? 
At Baluk Arts I work collaboratively with people who have similar backgrounds so it a really good way for us to connect with a culture that we haven't really grown up with. I think my work has touched people, and not just Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. I've spoken at Universities where people who survived the holocaust, for instance, have been able to relate to my stories and work also. 

And art is obviously a positive way to explore these things, identify shared experiences and and possibly help in the process of healing. In terms of the work that you've used for the Verner collaboration print, what's the story behind that?
It was a series of drawings of these shields that I had been doing for some years. They're line drawings, which are like a protection of history, a protection of cultural identity. There's a connection through those drawings and, at the same time they're kind of like a holder or a keeper of knowledge, in some sense. For me shields represent an element of protection.

Did you invent these shields or have you reinterpreted existing shields? 
They're reinterpreted. There's also a circular motive, and circular for me represents family. It's been really interesting to see how Ingrid has translated the drawings in her design. The drawings have had to be repeated along the fabric and it's the first time I've really done something like this — it's been amazing seeing it translated onto a fabric. 

What were the main considerations in terms of producing the collection?
We were quite conscious of fabrics and trying to keep it as natural as possible — natur

al cottons and wools. Also, the idea of gender came into play and I really like the idea that these pieces can be for anybody really. 

And I understand you're also making jewellery from the fabric cast-offs. 
Yes! I'm going to weave necklaces which will be kind of chunky and I'll be adding seeds and things to them. My daughter has created earrings as well.

This feels like such a special collaboration between two artists defining their time. 
My work takes a while to be created, it's not something that's just pumped out, and I'm so excited to see it used to create totally unique pieces. I've always had a love of fashion too, so this is like a dream come true. 


Text Briony Wright

fashion interviews
ingrid verner
craft victoria
lisa waup