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IN CONVERSATION WITH: EMILIA GALATIS, FLASH MINKY




If you've been wanting to support more homegrown businesses, creatives, and art - we've got just the thing for you.

Here at TLSE, generating awareness and appreciation for local artists and creatives is something very close to our hearts, so when we heard about Flash Minky, we couldn't wait to share it.


Flash Minky works with a variety of Western Australian Indigenous artists to create soft, bespoke furnishings. Woven from recycled cotton, the blankets reflect the diversity and geographical drama of arts and culture across Western Australia.


"For many years I have been passionate about making the arts accessible to the general public. I feel the average person does not cognitively understand the role that arts and design plays in their daily life" says Emilia.




Keep reading to learn more about the concept behind the business, and how Flash Minky works to promote Australian artists in a sustainable way.



[TLSE] Can you tell us a little bit about Flash Minky?


[Emilia] Flash Minky is a very new business that works with Western Australian artists to create limited curated, limited edition soft goods, however, the concept is the genesis of over a decade of working in remote communities with Indigenous owned and governed organisations. The name is a take on a mink blanket, the soft fleecy blankets that are nicknamed minkie’s. Flash Minky blankets are woven to order in the USA from recycled cotton with licensed artist prints. So, the name is kinda tongue in cheek – the idea that they are a ‘flash blanket’, AKA Flash Minky. The idea has grown organically through many years of conversations.


Creating a passive income for remote Indigenous artists to supplement the highs and low of the fine art market is something I have wanting to do for a long time. Sustainability is important to me and the artists I wanted to work with, the Indigenous peoples of WA have cared for our state for over 60,000 years, so it was important that the product was not mass produced and didn't create any more waste. This kind of manufacturing doesn’t exist in Australia, hence why they are made in the USA.


Blankets are basically a form of currency in most places I work, I really wanted to make a product that community would love and use, so the blankets have been a great success with the artists, they love the product. I had the time to investigate starting Flash Minky at the beginning of COVID last March; I went about contacting artists and art centres to arrange samples to be made to test the product. I then travelled to the communities and showed the artists the physical concept so they could understand the quality and aesthetic of how their artwork translates onto a woven textile. People were really happy! I was inundated with requests for blankets, but I am no homewares expert, so Flash Minky has grown slowly whilst I have continued to run my consulting business at the same time. Flash Minky gives 100% of the net profit back to the artist and art centre; which is 25% of the retail price. This figure is almost double the amount that most products return as a percentage. The production, manufacture, marketing and sales are just covered in the remaining amount.


How long have you been working with Indigenous artists?


I have been working with Indigenous artists for over 14 years as a curator, art consultant, cultural producer and Indigenous arts development specialist. In my first job, I was manager of Merenda Gallery in Fremantle - so I have extensive experience working in the commercial gallery space. I then worked for the Art Gallery of WA for 12 months or so, but I decided that if I was to remain working in the Indigenous art space, I had to understand where art was made and conceived. I had been doing some commercial contract work for Martumili in Newman so I thought I knew a thing or two. So, at the tender age of 26 I relocated myself to the Western Desert, the remote Ngaanyatjarra lands to take on the role of arts and business manager of leading Art Centre, Warakurna Artists Aboriginal Corporation. I led the first Western Desert merger and was managing the daily operations of a three community Ngaanyatjarra corporation, whom had different interests across those three areas. After I left that role, I was offered to produce and manage Revealed for the Fremantle Art Centre, a project that works with all 27 remote WA art centres and independent SW artists.


After that, I was the co-curator and project manager for Desert River Sea at AGWA, working with eight Kimberley communities to deliver an exhibition, public program and publication within a 12 month timeline. My recent work is focused on identifying and securing markets for the art of WA’s Aboriginal artists internationally after being awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2019. I have curated two commercial shows in the USA with Mangkaja Arts, including travelling to NYC with senior Walmajarri artist, Ngarralja Tommy May.


I also curated All Mixed Up with Walmajarri artist, John Prince Siddons at the Fremantle Art Centre in 2020 - my first major curatorial project. I just got back from Mangkaja arts and have been curating a fashion show in a gorge at Karajini with the West Australian Symphony orchestra and am organising the visit of over 16 Western Desert (Martu, Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjanjatjarra) elders to Perth for the closing of the Seven Sisters show at the West Australian Museum in a about a week or so - NEVER a dull moment.



Who are the artists that feature on Flash Minky wares, and how did you come to start working with them?


There are six artists I am working with currently - I was determined to fund the project myself so as to not take grant funding away from arts organisations, so this is the core group that we have worked with for launch. John Prince Siddon and Tommy May are Walmajarri artists from Mangkaja arts in Fitzroy Crossing. Mangkaja arts have been a client since 2015, so I have been working with these two incredible artists through my consulting work for a while now. I originally started working in FX, facilitating aged care painting workshops with senior artists. So, I have worked one on one with both Tommy and Prince over a number of years.


Prince was so happy when he saw the blankets, the thought of these items living in people’s home was a source of inspiration and pride. It also sparked many more ideas for the artist. Prince and I have worked closely together for many years across a broad range of disciplines.


“ I want to share my art with a much wider audience and get people to understand what I am trying to do. I make work about what I see on TV, my animal hero’s and things like that. I really want to get it out there so these blankets and other things help this” explains Prince.

Over the last few years Prince, Mangkaja and I have worked on a host of fabrication projects including 3D prints, wallpapers, wearable art and tapestries. Tyrown Waigana is a Wandandi Noongar and Ait Koedhal cross-disciplinary artist who navigates his existence as a youth, as a man, as a dreamer, as a truth teller, and as a contemporary artist. His identity is at the core of his work, which includes painting, illustration, sculpture, animation, and graphic design. Wadandi people are saltwater people from Western Australia's south, between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin. It was really important to me to showcase the work of independent super star artists like Tyrown, and I hope to work with more Noongar artists as I go along, acknowledging Whadjuk country where I live and work.


The Waringarri artists from the Kununurra area I have been working with since Desert River Sea, although I have been working with Waringarri since Revealed. There are over 40 Indigenous languages still spoken in the Kimberley region, so it's important that we showcase regional diversity and educate people through the blankets. I see these blankets as a gateway product; hopefully starting people’s journey’s into art centres and the integral role they play in remote communities.


The artists are also in high demand; there are waiting lists for most of these artists' work, and the average person wont be able to ever own one of their paintings. These artists have generously shared their work with us, offering something that is accessible, in line with FM vision.


What does a breakdown of the profit structure look like, and how do the artists fit into this?


All the profit (25% of the retail price) is returned to the artist or art centre as their representative, and we hope this will create a sustainable model for the future. The manufacturing, shipping, marketing, packaging, tech and design are the raw costs involved and they are an expensive product to make due to the fact they are recycled and made to order. We have licensing agreements in place and each print is limited to 100 – after that a print will change.



What do you hope to achieve with Flash Minky?


We hope to increase the value and appreciation of WA art and culture and find new consumers that will help drive that appreciation. I hope to connect with the next generation of art consumers and build their relationships with artists/art centres through carefully curated product. We hope to make products with integrity and to evolve as a business in line with artists interests and ideas. Flash Minky will run parallel to the work I will continue to do in remote communities, returning profits back and being agile in the design space. Art centres are very busy places, so FM is able to navigate that world well.



You can learn more about Flash Minky and check out the beautifully crafted blankets on over here.


 


WORDS | Brittany Ross

IMAGERY | Flash Minky

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