Blak Design (Contemporary First Nations Jewellery)
Koorie Heritage Trust
Blak Design Program participants
Koorie Heritage Trust
Blak Design is the Koorie Heritage Trust’s annual professional development and mentoring program that provides support, training and opportunities to Indigenous creatives to foster First Nations innovation and entrepreneurship within the national design sector. The first two years (2021 and 2022) focussed on contemporary jewellery.
Image: Jenna Lee ‘doedoet: to tie up 1-6’ 2021 (Blak Design 2021) (photo: Fred Kroh)
Image: Hollie Johnson ‘Tackan il wariga sight and sound - Mystery bay necklace’ 2021 (Blak Design 2021) (photo: Fred Kroh)
An Australian first, Blak Design is innovative and Indigenous-led, and marks a crucial step towards addressing the systemic barriers that have historically prevented many First Nations creatives from accessing the training, resources and opportunities necessary to fully participate within the national design sector.
The program aims to equip First Nations creatives with the skills, confidence and industry networks necessary to advance their own design and commercial expertise, with the goal of nurturing long-term commercially sustainable design practices and, at the same time, ensure that First People’s voices and perspectives contribute to a more equitable, authentic and inclusive Australian design landscape.
First Nations creatives participating in the Blak Design program engage in a series of intensive mentored workshops presented at KHT and at the RMIT School of Art’s design studios. The workshops provide participants with a range of professional development opportunities, from building their cultural storytelling and practical design skills, to providing guidance on commercial and small business practices.
Networking opportunities are also built into the program, including introductions to producers, suppliers, retailers, museum curators and academics, and attendance of design fairs and other industry events.
Exhibitions of participants’ work is held at KHT each year, supported by a substantial catalogue.
Blak Design has delivered real outcomes for First Nations contemporary jewellers, not only by enabling them to develop skills and build networks, but also by helping to build capacity within the Indigenous design sector as a whole.
The program has supported participants to build economic resilience, prosperity and independence. It equipped them with valuable skills and knowledge, enabling them to develop their own design practices, build successful small businesses and find employment in the cultural sector. As evidence of the program’s impact, the work of seven Blak Design alumni is included in the current 'Melbourne Now' exhibition at the NGV.
Blak Design, initiated by KHT in collaboration with NGV and RMIT, is a professional development program aimed at empowering Indigenous artists with the necessary skills, connections and confidence to enhance their design and commercial expertise. Its goal is to promote the development of commercially sustainable design practices that reflect the voices and perspectives of First Peoples, and contribute to a more equitable and inclusive design landscape in Australia.
A fundamental consideration in developing the program is the ‘decolonisation’ of design development and education. In keeping with KHT’s Protocols for Sharing Indigenous Knowledge, Blak Design is Indigenous-led, ensuring First Nations creatives are mentored by First Nations expertise. Each year the program focusses on a single design discipline: the first two years focussed on jewellery, the current program on ceramics, and the forthcoming iteration will be devoted to fashion and textile design. A series of intensive workshops, delivered at KHT and at RMIT’s design studios, provides participating creatives with mentorship and advice on
- developing their practical design skills,
- commercial production and small business practices,
- exhibition development and display, and
- industry networking opportunities.
The program culminates in an exhibition at KHT, touring to regional venues, and supported by a substantial catalogue.