Publisher was first introduced into the indigenous textile industry in 2007 when Mark was contacted by Bobbie Ruben, a textile designer working with Bábbarra Women’s centre to create textiles which would adorn the walls of the Mantra Pandanas, a Luxury hotel in Darwin. Three designs were commissioned to be printed by Publisher, Kunronj by Jennifer Wurrkidj, Yawkyawk dja Wayuk by Deborah Wurrkidj and Kun-Madj by Linda Gurawana. The original hand painted film work for each design was sent to Publisher to be exposed on to screen, meaning none of the detail made by the artist’s brushstrokes would be lot in the process. As Publisher is able to print multi-screen designs with tight registration, the artists and Bobbie were able to create complex new repeats for the designs, introducing off set layering, shadow printing and flipping artwork on the screen creating stunning finished textiles. This project established a long-lasting relationship between Publisher and Bábbarra, who have now been collaborating for 15 years, with over 20 designs printed at Publisher.
In 2013 Merrepen Arts contracted Bobbie Ruben, whom they had first worked with in 2004, to work with them to develop new and more complex designs. The intricacy of some of these new designs and the number of colours used meant that they were difficult to print on site at Merrepen. Billabong, a 5 colour design by Christina Yambing and Yams, containing 4 colours by Gracie Kumbi were some of the first designs to be printed at Publisher. Our on-site library now contains 15 Merrepen designs across 46 screens.
Stephanie began working at Publisher in 2014, taking over management of the Indigenous collection in 2015. At that same time she also began to grow the small line of clothing and homewares produced on site at Publisher using our own collection of designs.
By 2016 the indigenous collection had grown to over 50 designs across nearly 100 screens with works from Bábbarra and Merrepen, along with Hopevale Arts and Nagula Jarndu. As Publisher is a privately-owned for-profit business, to sustain the ever-growing collection of designs housed on site the number of metres being printed need to be increased. We approached the four art centres with a proposal to use some of their designs in our clothing range with Bábbarra, Merrepen and Hopevale agreeing to the project. In total 28 different styles were made using 17 different designs. The range was extremely successful with the Bábbarra collection being shown as part of the inaugural Country to Couture runway show at Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair.
Our main goal at Publisher in relation to the indigenous collection has always been to create new economic opportunities and revenue streams for the art centres and the artists they support. In order for both art centre and artist to benefit from the clothing ranges Publisher needed to create garments that could be sold at both a wholesale and retail price, allowing the Art Centre to purchase stock from us at a wholesale cost and on-sell them at retail price.
Over the next 4 years numerous contracts and royalty payment systems were trailed, with a final formal contract being created in 2019. We now offer 3 levels of service to our Art Centre partners; the first level is straight commission printing, meaning all fabric printed is sent back to the Art Centre to be on-sold by them. The second level is in addition to the commission printing Publisher purchases fabrics printed in our studio from the centres to be on-sold in our online and bricks and mortar store. The third level is the licencing of the Centre’s designs to be used in Publisher’s clothing range, a royalty is paid per metre to the artists and the centre can purchase the clothing to on-sell through their onsite and online stores and at markets and art fairs.