Marnin Studio: an Indigenous women’s healing space turns blankets into bush toys

Marnin Studio: an Indigenous women’s healing space turns blankets into bush toys

Marnin Studio is a therapeutic healing space where women in Fitzroy Crossing, the heart of the Kimberley in Western Australia, can come to create, learn and relax. ‘Marnin’ means women in Walmajarri language. 

The artwork created by the women can range from printed fabrics and clothing, to woven baskets, painted boab nuts or bush toys made from old blankets.

Based at Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre in Fitzroy Crossing, the studio is driven by the vision of local Bunuba, Gooniyandi, Wankatjunka, Walmajarri and Nykina women. 

Lino print tote bags from Marnin Studio

After connecting with Courtney, the studio manager at Marnin, we heard a little bit more about the roots of the social enterprise. Marnin Studio started with a demand for the women’s artwork.

“The Studio started officially back in 2013 when a group of women from the organisation's (Marninwarntikura Women's Resource Centre) family violence shelter started painting boab nuts to pass the time. A visitor to the organisation saw the nuts and wanted to buy them and the ladies then realised they had a market for their artwork. Since then, the boab nut project has developed into a social enterprise art studio with a focus on healing and trauma-informed practice, working with the women to produce high-end homewares and textiles.”

These days, many women access Marnin Studio and Courtney says that it provides a place for the artists to create and develop products that reflect their deep knowledge of the local environment, culture and community. Furthermore, the women can use the studio as a platform to sell their wares.

“Through this social enterprise model, the women have the opportunity to reach financial stability through the sale of their products.”

The women of Marnin Studio

Marnin Studio originally reached out to ask if we had old blankets that we could donate to the Studio as second hand blankets are the basis for the bush toys made by the artists.

We thought it would be a great opportunity to not only upcycle some of our bigger off-cuts pieces, but include others that have reached out to us with their old blankets they no longer want (as a closed loop business we have requests to recycle old blankets quite regularly).

Our first shipment arrived at Marnin Studio a month ago and were quickly turned into beautiful bush toys that are hand-stitched by the ladies.

Bush toys made by the women of Marnin Studio

Courtney explained how the social enterprise works, with the profits used to prioritise paying the artists.

“It allows us to re-invest our profit back into the studio where we can pay our artists up front for their products each week without them having to wait on the product to sell first. This enables the women to be in control of their money management as they know they can make whatever they feel capable of each week, in a low pressured environment, and receive regular payments for their work.”

It’s not just recycled blankets that Marnin Studio is using in the waste-to-resource department. They also have an op shop that provides affordable clothing in town and a barista program that uses the excess coffee beans (that can’t make up kilo orders) from Melbourne roaster Seven Seeds to educate young female job seekers in coffee making and customer service.

“This partnership is extremely effective in us being able to access low-cost, high quality coffee for our young people to learn with, as well as reducing waste of a perfectly good product,” says Courtney.

And beyond Marnin Studio itself, the Women’s Resource Centre that it’s part of offers a holistic approach to ensuring the wellbeing of women and their families of the Fitzroy Valley. Services such as family legal advice, counselling, family violence prevention and protection, as well as positive pregnancies and parenting programs are also available.

The women of Marnin Studio

Courtney says that Marnin Studio sits amongst this positive work to offer a place for women to grow and connect through the creation of exquisite pieces that are directly financially beneficial. We are so impressed with the work Marnin Studio produces and how they’re strengthening their community while they do it. If you have any old wool blankets, let us or Marnin Studio know and we'll see if they're suitable for upcycling into beautiful artwork.

You can visit their online store, which is launching soon. Or if you’re in Melbourne, visit them at the Finders Keepers Market on October 19 to 21.

Seljak Brand blanket offcuts made into bush toys.

Seljak Brand blanket offcuts made into bush toys.

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