To celebrate the beautiful and thoughtful works that are made across the Indo-Pacific, we’re introducing an “object of the month”. The first of these laurels goes to Anne Jillett for her Salt Pot. It has a wonderful loopy shape, a distinctive technique and innovative way of combining with wood. Anne lives in Bellenden Ker, a small rural hamlet of cane farms and rainforest in Queensland. You can see more of her work at Ellis Road Fibre Arts.
Here she tells the story of how she learnt the bilum technique:
For a long time I had been yearning to learn how to make bilums, when I was fortunate enough to strike up a conversation with Maryanne Tokeme at the iconic Rusty’s Markets in Cairns. Maryanne is a PNG woman from Wapenamanda in the Western Highlands. With the proceeds from her bilum and basket stall, she was contributing to the establishment of a primary health care facility in her village. We struck a deal. She would teach me to make bilums, and I would donate my efforts to her stall for sale. This was the beginning of a journey for both of us. Maryanne taught me the basics of bilum making, her culture and some of the pidgin language. Sitting on a milk crate each week, while she guided my slowly developing skills, we shared stories of our lives. I met many PNG women over the two years I sat with Maryanne. They were intrigued that a white woman could make bilums and would join us each week to yarn and laugh. It was through these connections that I was taught the finer points of bilum making and learned the art of incorporating intricate designs. This experience continues to provide a strong influence on my development as a textile artist.