Developing the Mutawintji Series

Mutawintji side table in jarrah, red gum and rock maple

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a three-day carving course with Master Carver Hape Kiddle. I saw how various lines of exploration had led Hape to original shapes and to the new combination of shapes. An underlying influence in Hape’s work is the cultural echo of his Maori heritage and his New Zealand childhood. Many of Hape’s shapes are “wet” and many of his forms suggest a practical purpose that may or may not be there.

I’m a child of the Australian bush. I see harder, dryer, more ancient forms. I see old landscapes scraped and scoured and worn by wind and water. I see life forms that know how to hang on and tough it out. I see soils that appear to have all the life leached out of them suddenly give rise to a palette of wildflowers and insect life.

We recently made the Minderoo side table for a Southern Highlands client who had grown up on the iconic WA station of the same name. My mind went to the red soil of the Pilbara dissected by the Ashburton River. I wanted to capture something of that landscape.

Hape Kiddle carvings
Seed Pod Vessels by Hape Kiddle

William Bayliss crafted the Minderoo, and we were both satisfied with the design. But we could see other places to go with the theme. Years ago, my young family and I were lucky enough to visit Mutawintji just after a period of significant rain. Mutawintji National Park (North-East of Broken Hill) is an ancient landscape defined by temporal water courses over rock and the slow passage of time. The area is sacred to the original inhabitants and is a vital resource for native animals. When the rains come, it’s a place of startling beauty and verdant life. The spectacular Aboriginal rock art speaks of a sophisticated and timeless culture.

Mutawintji gave me the inspiration to run the fluting across the surface of a piece and down the face, like a water channel across rock. William was keen to incorporate some of the shapes we have been playing with on our Riverstones and Confluence series. At first I was hesitant- there’s a fine line between simply repeating yourself and developing on previous work. There’s also the danger of cramming too many ideas in to one piece. That’s why the timing of the course with Hape was so fortuitous- it reinforced the value of reworking themes until the breakthrough comes.

William was right- we already had some proven forms to work with and the addition of the fluted sections enhanced those forms. It’s as if all that work with the Riverstones and the Confluence series had been done just to get to this point.



Mutawintji 1 is made from rain drop blackwood with wenge fluting. Mutawintji 2 is made from figured jarrah with red gum fluting. Each piece explores different aspects of the Mutawintji landscape. The rain drop blackwood and wenge for the wet, with the stone darkened by water and ephemeral pools filling the rock basins. The jarrah and red gum for the hard season when no rain has fallen and the stone is hot and dry.