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peep kip & co's collaboration with the bábbarra women's centre

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When you set a table with a linen tablecloth featuring Elizabeth Wullunmingu’s bright pink mud crabs crawling across it, no matter how dazzling the food you serve, the tablecloth is always going to be the hero. Kip & Co’s latest collaboration with Bábbarra Women’s Centre has the bold, punchy colours you’d expect, but the prints themselves are truly special.

You’ll find the Bábbarra Women’s Centre in the remote region of Maningrida, Arnhem Land. It initially started as a safe space for local Indigenous women, and now, the textiles designed and hand-printed there are sold all over the world, with the money made coming back to support the local community.

We spoke to Alex McCabe, co-founder and creative director of Kip & Co, and Elizabeth Wullunmingu, an artist from the Bábbarra Women’s Centre, about the collaboration that's been two years in the making.
ALEX MCCABE 

Tell us a bit about how this collaboration came about. It started about two years ago when we received an email invitation at the request of the artists at the Bábbarra Women’s Centre. The artists wanted to collaborate with an Australian brand run by women. Luckily, we came up in their research. They attached a file with a bunch of their artwork. We loved the story of the centre and the artwork – the bold, bright, clashing colours really spoke to us aesthetically.

How did you work with the artists? We were very conscious of the responsibility of working with art that has cultural significance. Bábbarra has a relationship with The Copyright Agency, who represents a lot of Indigenous artists in licensing arrangements. They guided us through a best-practice arrangement.Artist Margot Gurawiliwili

What does a best-practice arrangement look like? It involves 50/50 profit sharing, giving the artists decision-making authority around every single aspect of product development and the creative process. The artists came to Melbourne twice, and we went to Arnhem Land to show them the full final range. We wanted to get their reaction and make sure they were happy with it. That reveal was a really big moment for us.
Artist Deborah Wurrkidj

Some of the photography is stunning. Was it shot in Arnhem Land? Yes, it was really important to us to have it shot there because it gives the collection so much context. The land is tied to those prints; it’s where those stories come from. The artists were having a bit of a laugh at us because we were lugging around air mattresses in extreme humidity. We ensured the artists were also shot in the campaign photography, too. We tried so hard to make sure it was collaborative the whole way through.

Do you have any styling tips for this particular collection? Kip & Co is always about mix and match. We encourage people to go print on print and combine a whole range of different colours. If you find that a bit overwhelming, I generally say start small. Maybe just a couple of printed pillow cases and a throw on your bed. You can gradually build up to it.ELIZABETH WULLUNMINGU 

Elizabeth started sewing and designing at Bábbarra in 2010 and is a key member of the sewing team. Her artwork “Barnkabarra” tells the story of catching crabs in the mangroves or her homeland, east of Maningrida at the mouth of the Blyth River.
Artist Elizabeth Wullunmingu 

How did you create your artwork? I saw my mother’s drawings (she was an artist). I learnt to draw like her, but I made my design a bit different. I feel proud of my design.

What does the Bábbarra Women’s Centre do? Sewing, going out bush with lots of women, screen printing and lino printing. People come do laundry. It’s a good place for women.

Why did you choose Kip & Co to work with? I liked what they were making, and we had a talk and we said yes. We wanted to make all that stuff with our designs.

What inspires you as an artist? I’ve seen how my uncle used to do art. I used to sit and watch my uncle and help him with bark painting. My uncle used to travel doing art and used to take us family with him. I also liked my mother drawings. They’ve both passed away now. I learnt from them.

What are you currently working on? I do sewing. I’m very busy with family, so sometimes I go to the women’s centre and do sewing.