Tropical Punk Backpacks
This installation is the result of an international design collaboration between Torres Strait artist and interior designer Francoise Lane and Scottish fashion designer and manufacturer Emily Millichip, a designer interested in forging a post-Scottish aesthetic that celebrates colourful, print-led design and craftsmanship.
Drawing upon her Meriam (Mer, Murray Island) and Kaurareg (Kirriri, Hammond Island) cultural heritage, Francoise Lane is inspired by family and her connection with nature, which informs the production of seductive surface patterns and functional forms that straddle the intersection of art and design.
In 2016 as part of the British Council and Australia Council for the Arts’ leadership skills development program ACCELERATE, Lane and Millichip connected. With an instant rapport and shared passion for design and culture, they vowed to collaborate.
International conversations ensued and in 2017 Lane travelled to Scotland where the designers worked together to produce the exclusive range of surface designs. Identifying contrasts and commonalities in their practices, they affectionately recognised the influence of niche cultures and the impact of working within ‘tourist towns’ on their practice and unpacked traditional design to create a new visual language that draws upon cultural heritage and at the same time moves beyond national design tropes.
“I consider myself a contemporary Indigenous artist, although my work does not fall into traditional or reference storylines. From my perspective, part of respecting cultural ownership is recognising that storylines do not belong to one person but to many, so I would not share that sacred information without having the express permission from my people. I’ve decided to explore my personal relationship to Country in my artwork and draw from the values that matter to me, around what I’ve been bought up in, in an Indigenous family. My work is inspired by connection to Country, family and experiences on Country where I call home now. My children inspire me too and their connection to Country which is something I’ve captured and explored in my work.”
The final surface designs were produced on natural linen through residency at the Centre for Advanced Textiles at the Glasgow School of Arts. Later in Millichip’s seaside design studio ‘Paradise’ in Portobello, Edinburgh, the pair further transferred influences and ideas to collaboratively design and produce the resulting small-scale range of Tropical Punk Backpacks, focusing on functionality, form and high-production values.
Colour exchange was an important part of the design development for both designers.
Both the limited collection of fabrics and resulting backpack forms take inspiration from the black bean seed pod, a native tree growing in Tropical North Queensland.
“The final prints and pieces are so indicative of our shared aesthetic – this exchange influenced all aspects of our collaboration. While initially informed by Fran’s connection to nature, I see iconic punk prints, the seed pod to my eye looks like tiger print and the black shapes are like polka dot so it’s sort of this true mash up of nature and punk, and that’s quite an unusual combination of influences. The whole aspect of punk is very urban, almost a rejection of the natural work with all its chains and hard edges. And then you’ve got the natural world with all its soft organic shapes on the other side, and we managed to come up with a project that fused those to disparate inspirations.”
The project was a finalist in the Creative Edinburgh 2018 Collaborations Award. The collaboration was supported by a research grant from the Australia Council for the Arts.