The Woodford Files 2014-2015: Underwater Basket Weaving with Aly de Groot, December 2014

Underwater Basket Weaving at Artisania
Underwater Basket Weaving at Artisania, Woodford Folk Festival

Woodford Folk Festival has an amazing array of hands-on arts workshops clustered into an alley called Artisania.

Bill Quinn stopped on his amble along the individually decorated paving bricks to chat with Aly de Groot about her workshops.

Book for Aly’s workshops at the Artisania office opposite the Coopers Bar.

*** Audio file to be deleted by end of March 2020 ***

*** Audio file to be deleted by end of March 2020 ***

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Image courtesy of Aly de Groot

Text of the interview with Aly de Groot:

Bill Quinn: Earlier today when I walked up to this part of the world, I called it ‘Diagon Alley’ [Harry Potter reference], but it’s ‘Artisania’. We are here for Timber and Steel and Trad and Now and Overheard Productions and Galloping Sheep.

I’m talking with Aly de Groot. Aly, let’s talk about your art.

Aly de Groot: I’m here from the Northern Territory doing a workshop called ‘Underwater Basket Weaving’ which involves making baskets out of fishing nets, which I’m very passionate about: getting those nets out of the ocean, the baskets that we’re making to carry the story about this environmental catastrophe.

BQ: Now you come from Darwin. What’s the source of these fishing nets? Is it Australian fishers? Is it people from the north?

AdG: The nets come from all over the world and they get left in the oceans. Some of these nets can be up to 10 kilometres long. And of course they don’t stop fishing; they keep fishing constantly. They’re a big problem in northern Australia because they wash up on the beaches from all over the world, and bring a lot of the marine life with them.

I’m involved in projects where I work with indigenous people who live in those parts of the world, and we use skills that they already have such as basketry, and translate those skills to dispose of the nets and make art which they can sell at the art centres.

These baskets go out into the world and tell people about this problem.

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Image courtesy of Aly de Groot

BQ: So they drift hundreds of kilometres and come from different parts of the world?

AdG: Yeah, they come from all over the world. As you can imagine, the nets are used all over the world, including Australia. Australia’s probably not the worst, but everyone contributes to it. The fishing industry contributes to it.

BQ: What’s the distribution network? You say that they go out to all over the world once they’re turned into art.

AdG: Exhibitions. The power of art to tell a story. And also interest through media, through magazines, the internet.

Galleries. I’ve got an online website. I do the craft fairs in the Northern Territory as well.

BQ: And there’s been a lot of interest here at Woodford?

AdG: Yeah, the workshops have been full. This is my second workshop today, and I’ve had more than 15 people in each workshop. As you can see, everyone’s made these beautiful colourful baskets and everyone’s happy.

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Image courtesy of Aly de Groot

BQ: And where do you go from here? Back to Darwin?

AdG: Yeah, back home. Lots to do down there. Up there. I don’t know where I am! I haven’t slept much.

BQ: Woodford has that effect on people!

Aly, thanks for joining us today.

AdG: No worries.

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