Since the late 1980s, Maree Clarke (b. 1961) has been instrumental to the revival of southeast Australian Aboriginal material cultural practices. An artist, curator, cultural facilitator and educator, Clarke is a Yorta Yorta, Wamba Wamba, Mutti Mutti and Boonwurrung woman. She grew up in Mildura in northwest Victoria, along the Murray River, but today lives in Yarraville, Melbourne, where her backyard studio is dedicated to producing and passing on cultural knowledge.

Year 2 students created a neckpiece that reflected who they are, their stories and connection to the environment. We began by looking at the work of Maree Clarke, the ideas and themes in her work and how we can respond to these concepts. We then compared Maree’s neckpieces to other artists who create wearable works of art such as Grace Lillian Lee, following the prompts provided in AGSA’s education resource. Students watched a short artist video with Maree Clarke, hearing about her practice and Unboxing the museum: River reed necklace where we discussed the importance of conserving art.

Using left over craft and art materials (foil, card, beads, feathers - whatever we had on hand), students created their piece. By using these reusable materials to communicate their idea through art, other lines of inquiry such as sustainability, conservation, looking after the environment by repurposing, reusing materials to care for the environment became central to the students’ art making.

Students loved making the necklaces. We learned about symmetry by laying out the pieces in a straight line and then threading these objects onto thread using a needle. We also discussed the impact manufacturing craft items have on the environment and the importance of reusing, recycling and repurposing.

-Sharon Lynch, Visual Arts Coordinator