Mim Cole is a Gulumoerrgin/ Larrakia, Wardaman, Karajarri and mixed-race artist from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. As a young girl in her teens, she began to experiment with art as her ancestors did long before her.
Mim’s collaboration with Catherine Manuell Design has given traction to her art and business. Catherine Manuell Design supports the Indigenous art code – maintaining standards in ethical trade for Indigenous art and artists. Their new collaboration comes from The Aboriginal Women Artists Project combining the fashion accessory designs of Catherine Manuell with the artworks of women and artists from remote communities in Australia which has been running for approximately 15 years. The artists benefit directly from an ongoing royalty from the production of every item made.
What is important to understand when buying Indigenous art?
I think it’s important to find out about the artist and artwork to make sure you are purchasing an authentic piece. I also think it is important to connect to the artwork and honour the knowledge, purpose and stories within it.
Why does art have such a big influence over Indigenous Australian culture?
Before the impacts of colonisation occurred, we recorded our stories and history visually through paintings and artwork. Art was our way of recording our history and knowledge, like in the western way it is letters and words on pages. Today artwork helps to strengthen our culture and identity.
Has art always been in your life?
Yes, as well as growing up around my large family of artists, throughout my whole schooling from transition to high school, art was always my favourite subject. I was always quite good at it as it came so naturally to me.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when creating your art?
I hold a strong connection to identity, family, country, nature and community. I then channel these themes and concepts intuitively into my art.
How do you connect to your creative side?
For me, it comes naturally as I have been creating art since a young teen. Learning techniques through practice and observation of the artmaking of my mother, uncles and artistic family. Art and creativity is a huge part of my family. I have also used art, throughout my life as a form of meditation, healing and connection to my ancestors.
Where do you paint?
I have had my own art studio for about a year now. But, before that, I would paint at my dining table at home surrounded by my husband and kids or I’d paint outside amongst nature.
How important is it for you that the traditions you were once taught are passed on to others?
It is extremely important to keep our culture alive and pass it on so that the knowledge is not lost. That way we can always stay connected and heal through our old and reliable ways.
The Indigenous art collaboration with Catherine Manuell Design
What is the name of your favourite piece of art you have ever created and why?
My favourite piece would have to be my Family Love painting which was the very first painting used for my business. I started out selling luxury bed sets with this print on them. The story is about the special love and bond within a family; my family, my world, my heart. This painting is also featured in our Catherine Manuell collection.
Who are some of your favourite artists?
Firstly, my family. I admire their artwork and broad artistic range. They are the core of my artistic ability. I also very much love traditional artists, especially from the N.T. And I must mention a couple of incredible contemporary artists that really inspired me when I first went into business with my art – Tradara Briscoe and Chern’ee Sutton.
How did the collaboration with Catherine Manuell Design begin? And, what has it meant for you?
I expressed my interest in wanting to put my designs on luggage to the wonderful Karina, owner of Starwin, at one of our women’s wellbeing collective workshops. She then introduced me to Catherine. We got along well, and it turned out that my detailed artwork was just what Catherine was looking for. The fact that she has a vegan brand also sealed the deal for me. I feel it was meant to be. To collaborate with someone as established and well known as Catherine Manuell Design will be an amazing platform for me, for people worldwide to see my artwork.
Has the income from the collaboration with Catherine Manuell Design helped you and/or your community and how?
It definitely helps towards my goal of wanting to be financially self-sufficient. To be able to keep doing what I love full time and be able to financially take care of my family is amazing. It then, in turn, allows me to do more for my community. The income allows me to keep creating and doing collaborations with local businesses, schools, sporting clubs and branching out into workshops to encourage others to tap into their own creative expressions.
I read that dot painting was something that only started in the 1970s, how did this practice come to be a part of your art?
My family and I have always had a particular dot style that we incorporate into our art. I have also been influenced through collaborative paintings I did with my husband and sister-in-law, who are from central Australia. I believe my subconscious love for mandalas (with their beauty and meaning) have all merged into my own style which I call abstract, contemporary intuitive art.
Catherine Manuell set up the Aboriginal Women Artists Project in 2006 and works with many other artists from remote communities. Her collaborative efforts have long been helping Indigenous artists be recognised and celebrated for their work.
Catherine’s collaboration includes working with the art of artists such as; Evelyn Pultara (Utopia-Telstra prize winner 2005), Amy Johnson and Maureen Thompson from Ngukurr arts, Dianne Robinson from Iwantja arts, Mossman Gorge Centre and Ayers Rock resort artists and Cheryl Thompson from Barcaldine plus many more.
Interested in seeing some examples of Australia’s oldest Indigenous art, visit Indigenous rock art.