WA FIRST: Design Freo set to host Perth’s first ever design week in Fremantle next month

How do design and creativity affect our lives individually and collectively?

That’s the question Pippa Hurst, creative director at Design Freo, is asking with Western Australia’s first design-specific festival taking place in Perth next month.

During the eight-day Fremantle Design Week, October 14-21, creatives in their respective fields will host interactive events designed to spark curiosity and open new perspectives.

Melbourne and Sydney have hosted design-led festivals for decades, but Hurst is determined to put Perth on the map and keep it there.

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“WA has a wealth of design talent and it’s time to celebrate that,” she says.

“With the global challenges we face now, it’s more important than ever to look locally for the things we need. Fremantle Design Week is about building the design culture in our state by sharing ideas and fostering new connections between creatives and the wider community.”

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Multidisciplinary artist Carla Adams, one of many creatives involved in the biennial event in Port City, hosts a discussion with Anya Brock entitled Tattoo You on the evolution of tattooing in modern society.

The Curtin University graduate, who recently exhibited her work at AGWA, has had a unique ink journey of self-acceptance since getting her first tattoo 20 years ago. She challenges the feeling that tattoos require meaningful value.

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“(The) notion of eternity isn’t what it used to be, things don’t seem as permanent anymore,” she says.

“Everything is so temporary or on demand these days, and there really isn’t anything that’s built to last, so why would the body be any different?”

Leith Groves, Harriette Gordon, Carla Adams and Angus McBride all attend Fremantle Design Wee.
camera iconLeith Groves, Harriette Gordon, Carla Adams and Angus McBride all attend Fremantle Design Wee. Recognition: Jackson Flindell/The Western Australian

Adams admits there was a time when Perth creatives graduated from university and moved east because that was where the “thriving” industry was. This consequently left a ‘void’ in Perth.

“I think that contributed to the idea that Over WA isn’t the most exciting place to be when you’re creative,” she admits.

“(But) I’ve noticed over the last 10 years that more people are either coming back to Perth or staying here and I think that makes for a really vibrant theme.

“When you work in the creative industry (in Perth) you have to be imaginative, you have to be a team player, you have to work together and there’s a real sense of friendship and collaboration with everyone. I really love it (and) I wouldn’t want to live or work anywhere else.”

Collaboration has been a key survival tool for many artists, designers and creative companies during the pandemic over the past few years, but the synergy show isn’t over.

Angus McBride, co-director of design and production studio Remington Matters, has been preparing a collaboration for Fremantle Design Week with longtime friend and creative colleague Jules Weston of fashion label Hickey Hardware.

The pair created a bespoke couch and ottoman that combined both design techniques and aesthetics in a way McBride describes as refreshing.

“[Collaboration]is a good way to force yourself to use different types of design,” explains McBride.

Creating original designs has become increasingly difficult, whether consciously or unconsciously, thanks to the overwhelming influence of social media. But the South Fremantle-based architect admits working with Weston has helped him start over.

“It’s quite difficult to come up with something unique because there’s so much,” he says.

“I almost wish I could ‘unsee’ every piece of furniture I’ve seen on Instagram so I could try to start fresh with new ideas. It’s really hard not to scroll through saving pictures of cool furniture because as soon as you start drawing something (from the internet) starts coming out, even if it’s unconscious. So it’s really difficult to start again.”

There is no doubt that an artist’s environment can greatly influence their work, be it through social media or their geographic location.

Yindjibarndi artist Wimiya Woodley, who will host a pop-up store at Fremantle Design Week alongside indigenous art group Juluwarlu, takes inspiration from his ngurra (land) and admits creating art has helped him getting out of a bad place.

Wimiya Woodley with his painting Tree Rain Drops (2019)
camera iconWimiya Woodley with his painting Tree Rain Drops (2019) Recognition: Claire Martin

Woodley’s first painting, entitled Tree Rain Drops (2019), showed a tree which he says was “weeping”.

“It was crying because it just rained for the first time in a long time and it was a whoop of joy,” says the WAAPA graduate.

“I wasn’t in a good position at the time. I did a lot of drugs, but painting really helped me get out of this mindset of anxiety and depression.”

Woodley’s original artwork will be featured on a variety of merchandise available for purchase at Juluwarlu’s pop-up event, including apparel and homewares.

The emerging artist is excited to bring Yindjibarndi culture and Juluwarlu to Fremantle Design Week and hopes to spread their rich culture.

“We don’t really have a lot of people who know who Juluwarlu is and what Juluwarlu is about, and I just want them to say, ‘The people of Juluwarlu and Yindibarndi are just amazing people,'” he says.

“I want them to share us on social media and let them know who we are.

“We’re not here to make these products just from our people’s artworks, we’re here to tell a story and we’re here to stay. We are here to do whatever it takes to keep Yindibarndi alive.

Woodley inherited his passion for storytelling from his grandmother and mother, who were both artists, and his father, who wrote songs.

“It’s who I am, I wouldn’t be Wimiya Woodley without my storytelling. It made me who I am today,” he says.

“Storytelling brings out a lot of good sides of you that you didn’t know you had, and it does it in a really delicate (and) safe way because you keep yourself while you tell stories. You are creating someone who is truly different within you.”

The anticipated festival will also host Monash University XYX Lab’s award-winning HyperSext City exhibition, which examines how gender affects our experience of space and raises important questions about how we can design safer cities for women and the LGBTQI+ community.

Renowned fashion consultant Leith Groves will host a vintage pop-up store at her studio and will appear in a “Fashion Critical” talk with fashion educator Lisa Pillar and designer Nita-Jane McMahon.

A range of Fremantle fashion designers will welcome the public to their creative spaces with open studios including Harriette Gordon, Luka Rey, Pia Bennett and Empire Rose.

For more information on Perth’s first design-based festival, visit fremantledesignweek.com

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