Michelle Woody

Michelle Woody

By Crystal Thomas

Michelle Woody
Senior Artist and President of Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association
-  11th September 2018  -


Interview and photography by Colin Puruntatameri

Who inspired you to become an artist?

The people that inspired me were; My partner Nicholas Mario and My relatives.

When did you start to do art?

It all started back when I was working for the dole. Doing my activities at Tiwi Island Training & Employment Board also known as TITEB. My partner encouraged me to start doing some painting. In 2004 I started doing some painting, Jilamara. My partner said. “keep going continue with your art work, you’re probably getting better at it”. Now I’m still doing painting and I’m also a (part time) worker. I still want to do (more) art work.

Is your design more contemporary or traditional?

Yes, is it traditional, because it’s really important in our Tiwi culture. We have to keep the tradition going and keep our culture strong. It’s part of our Tiwi culture and it's part of doing our art work, Jilamara. 

Would you like to inspire someone else, like your daughters?

Yeah hopefully I’ll get my girls involved, especially (my daughter) Sofia. Because she (always) comes to the art centre. She spent most of her life. Close to her mum and dad doing artwork at Jilamara. Hopefully, when she gets older she’ll continue it and follow our footsteps.

 What painting do you like doing the most?

Mostly I like doing traditional Jilamara and also Winga (the sea) is really important to me. Because Winga has all the bush tucker like; sea turtle, stingray, fish, crab. We live off the sea.

What do you think about Jilamara bringing screen-printing back?

It was established in the 80s and (ran throughout) the 90s then it stopped. We decided to ask the government for funding. So that we could get it up and going again. As it was a part of Jilamara. Hopefully, it will continue on in the future.

Do you think screen printing will bring more young people back to the art centre?

Yes, hopefully, we’ll get more young people involved. Especially those that are graduating from school. So that when they come back home they have (more job) opportunities in the art centre.  

Did you ever think that your design would be on clothing?

Hopefully it will be on clothing, because it’s going to be my future ideas. I already did the design, hopefully it will go on the clothing so tourists and customers can buy it too.

Where would you like your artwork to go? Would you like it to go to the AFL team?

Hopefully my design will go to AFL team or fashion, like fashion design with clothing.

What does it mean for you to be working here at Jilamara?

For me, for work here at Jilamara it’s really important to work with our people and engage with other artists and other people also support them.

You see a lot of people coming in and out on contract and other staff members.  What would you like to see happen at Jilamara in the future?

For the future, hopefully we’ll get the younger ones. Many young people, they are walking around now.  They can come in and do work.

And what would you like to see with the NORTH collaboration, with them using your design?

Hopefully it will bring tourists or customers. People from everywhere, from around the world if they see that fabric design on clothing and hopefully they will buy it.

And then with that too, you can see other family members wearing the design?

Yeh, and hopefully I’ll get some family members to wear that design and even for my niece Cassie. She’s doing that really wonderful career and hopefully she’ll model some clothing like fashion and the design from Jilamara and Munupi. That’s where her family is and that’s really where she’s from.

I’ve seen how she worked down in Melbourne, it will be different her working back with our people here on community?

Hopefully it attracts people and tourists if they interested in buying Tiwi clothing and Tiwi Art they can go on the website and hopefully we can get a connection from there. (Melbourne.)