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this design studio is raising awareness about Australia’s strangest creatures

this design studio is raising awareness about Australia’s strangest creatures

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We sat down for a chinwag with Fabriculture creative director and textile designer Penny Gale.

How can we protect Australia’s threatened species if we don’t know they exist? That’s the question clever lady Penny Gale asked herself in 2018, when she realised her kids knew more about the creatures that harm native animals than the native animals themselves.

We caught up with her to find out about her business, Fabriculture – a small design studio that's committed to raising the profile of Australia’s threatened and unusual species.What inspired you to start Fabriculture? It came about when my twin boys attended a playgroup. The leader of the playgroup pulled a toy out of the box and asked the older kids what it was. They all yelled out, “bunny rabbit!” It was a bilby.

This really resonated with me. My kids’ clothes, toys, artwork and bedding were covered in rabbits, foxes and cats – animals that kill our native wildlife. Our books were about farm or zoo animals. It opened my eyes to what children are exposed to each day.

Conservationists dedicate their lives to saving a species, but if our kids don’t know these animals exist, why would they want to protect them? This got me researching and drawing our more unusual and endangered Australian animals in 2019. I found a lot I’d never heard of. I started this project not only to teach my boys, but to take ownership of our amazing wildlife. I’d like to visit a store and see a dibbler, mala or ungee-gungee on a t-shirt instead of the feral animals that destroy them.

How do you come up with your designs? I have a huge, beautiful country of flora and fauna to research and illustrate. I draw and paint by hand in motifs, then I scan everything and manipulate them in Photoshop and Illustrator. Next year (COVID permitting), I will trail some conservationists out in the field to sketch the wildlife first-hand.Which product have you enjoyed creating the most? The flashcards are my baby. I illustrated each animal during the boys’ nap time and liaised with many scientists – including some who discovered the species – to collect the information on the reverse of each card. They took me two years to complete. Now, I’m researching and drawing botanicals.

What’s your favourite native animal? I don’t do favourites, but one fascinating animal I discovered was the ‘Lazarus’ – the Lord Howe Island stick insect which was assumed extinct for 70 years and then rediscovered on Balls Pyramid, near the island.

Other interesting findings include that many of our marsupials, including numbats and rock wallabies, don’t need to drink water, and the dibbler and antechinus often die after vigorous mating! Honestly, the more animals I research, the more fascinated I become. 

What’s one way that we can help protect native flora and fauna? Awareness, by learning it exists and sharing it, especially with kids. Also, thinking before acting – is that pretty flower I want to pick actually a threatened species?

If the profile of threatened species is raised within the community, the opportunities for conservation and increased protection of our biodiversity is also raised. This is Fabriculture’s ethos. One of the best ways we can preserve our natural heritage for future generations is to celebrate it every day.

Spy more of Penny's designs on the Fabriculture website.