Talanoa: Maryann Talia Pau

Maryann Talia Pau is an artist, designer, weaver and Chief who draws from her Samoan heritage.

“It all began with a love for big bold jewellery. As a teenager, the pieces I began to make for myself and the materials I was drawn to reflected a love for Pacific design and style. This in turn led to a desire to learn more about my Pacific identity. I wanted to celebrate being Samoan and share it; to normalise it as well.” ~ Maryann Talia Pau

Maryann is one busy Chief, having finished Design Made Trade show last month in Melbourne where she was part of the Open Studio space. She has a number of projects underway with the launch of a new enterprise, Haus of Savvy Savage with Lia Pa’apa’a and tshirt label, Tee-Shout!™ and on top of that workshops and exhibitions this month.

Her Mana Couture collection is made of love. You can feel the mana in the beautiful handcrafted earrings, necklaces, cuffs and body adornments she creates. I so want to get my hands on one of her creations.

GameOn |  AUD $750.00 | Chest cape: Pule and sisi shells, satin ribbon | 2010

I talanoa with Maryann about her work, her inspirations and about her upcoming projects. We also chat about Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle which she cofounded with artist Lisa Hilli last year.

Tell us a little about your background – what path has led you to what you are doing now?
I was born in Apia, Samoa. I then grew up in Mt Roskill, Auckland until 1989. My family then moved to Melbourne, Australia, and this has been my home since.

A few things have contributed to my choosing this path of being a maker and artist. I have always loved making things, to experiment or to pass the time. As a child, I’d use what ever materials we had, in the house, in the garden, scraps of material or cardboard from my parents work.

I’ve always loved and been intrigued by style as a concept – individual style through fashion and accessories, private and public design through architecture, interiors and art.

What fascinates me is the personal story that drives a style, art or design. I often wonder what is this person thinking, reminiscing, aspiring to, afraid of? Understanding and exploring displacement and culture is also crucial to my work. Examining new re-Presentions of Pacific Island identities and values in shifting communities is important for me.

Rebirth |  AUD $650.00 | Breastplate: Raffia, shell, crystals, ribbon | 2011

I see jewellery and body adornment design as a way to affirm cultural identity, to rename and reclaim power in a fickle, mass produced and insecure society.

On a fun note, designing and making breastplates and jewellery is an exciting way to experiment with materials and dimensions.The bigger the better is what I’ve always subscribed too.

Making jewellery is my first step to many more creations for the body, home and public spaces.


What challenges have you faced, and what advice would you have for Pacific artists hoping to find representation and exhibit their work?
I’ve always believed that there are lots of different ways of being a Pacific Islander, and that there is no one ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ expression. It astounds me how many colonised and oppressive ideas remain deeply entrenched about the Pacific, especially since they are one of Australia’s closest neighbours.

In order to deal with this struggle, I find that creating work that looks at the complexities of Pacific Island identities and communities helps, which is why I’ve chosen to focus on our rich material and craft culture. It’s more than sustaining the craft and stories, it’s appreciating the skill and ingenuity of our peoples.

Pacific Island craft illustrates an ability to problem solve, define purpose and value, contextualise and translate concepts of mana and land into breathtaking patterns. Through my breastplates and textiles I hope to remind people about these details, that a beautiful object from the Pacific Islands is a culmination of all these intricacies. This is something I hold onto and share with people when I exhibit.

Another thing I’ve believed in and tested is that it’s ok to do things in the ‘unconventional’ sense when it comes to exhibiting work. My debut solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) came about because I really loved and wanted to see another artists work, Rosanna Raymond, and after a good yarn with the Curators of Indigenous Art at NGV it made sense to exhibit my response to Raymond’s work there.

I think timing is really important. Some ideas need to mature with time and experience so it’s not a bad thing to have lots of time between exhibitions. The quality of the work and how well it is curated will become the defining moment.

Fa’amolemole, pe mafai ona tatou lalaga fa’atasi (Samoan, Please can I weave with you?) | Breastplate | June 2009.  From Fashioning the Mana exhibition.  National Gallery of Victoria Collection.

Where do you turn for creative inspiration when beginning a new piece?
Generally, I am constantly inspired by our material and art culture and the people that make them. I am always keen to find ways to express elements of these crafts with our new realities in Australia. I find our women, especially, are sources of light for me. They are everywhere if you look and listen. Every time I weave or begin a piece of jewellery, I imagine being in a long line of makers stretching across the Pacific, sharing the latest goss and showing their latest weave or print. I imagine laughter and tears, lots of food and kids playing or joining in. This is what inspires and uplifts me. Weaving is a process of story telling and listening for me. It is healing and brings out the best work in me.

Plate Up | Goddess-plate | Siapo, shells, swarovski crystals, seed beads, silk, raffia, dried pandanus, satin ribbon | 2010. From Fashioning the Mana exhibition.

Can you give us a little insight into your creative – how do you first approach a new design? What favourite materials and tools do you use?
Most of the time, there is always something specific that I want to create. My hands can never really keep up with my head, which I’m learning is a good thing, otherwise I wouldn’t eat or sleep or have time with my family. If the design is clear and well defined, I can make really quickly. However, sometimes a piece can take a few months, like ‘Batman Who?’ That piece started with the shells months ago and then came together really quickly for Fashioning the Mana at NGV. It always works out to be a cohesive and connected collection because the process of story telling and the materials always have a relationship.

My favourite materials are pandanus, feathers, shells and seeds. I also love satin, silk and velvet.

Maryann’s studio

Tell us about the Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle.
The Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle emerged from a need to be in community with other Pacific Islander women and to learn more about our precious craft of weaving. Founded by myself and Lisa Hilli, a media artist from PNG, and now lovingly managed by another 2 sistas, Grace Vanilau and Lia Pa’apa’a, the weaving circle promotes learning and sharing weaving (and other Islander crafts) in an environment that is safe, culturally relevant and affirming.

Weaving Circle out West:  Fina, Amie, Maryann, Kui & Lia. Image via Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle

The Circle quickly became a reminder that these kinds of spaces are necessary for our woman’s well being, that art and craft is healing, and that we can be creative, industrious and resourceful. It’s what drew Pacific Islander women, and many other cultures to the circle and is what inspired people to support us with a space to meet and avenues to tell our story. It was also important to create a space specifically for Indigenous women of the Pacific because those spaces are rare, as are the opportunities to learn traditional craft skills and knowledge from aunties and elders. We wanted to find and tap into local knowledge and build relationships with our women.

I love the concept and art of weaving. It is fundamental to my practice and creation of jewellery and body adornment. I love how the process of weaving brings us together, to be a community and to nurture elements of our Indigenous Pacific cultures in new contexts and locations. The weaving that gets produced is amazing. Some of us are self taught, some have learnt with others, some are new to the craft. It’s always exciting seeing women learn a new weave or manipulate a weave to create a new technique, and we always have a great laugh and feed!!!

Maryann weaving at a Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle gathering. November 2010. Image via Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle

Do other art forms or artists in different disciplines inspire or have influenced you and how?
I’m a big fan of Rosanna Raymond who is a performer, a founding sista of Pacific Sisters and a multi-media artist. I love her approach to Museums, particularly her ability to activate their resources so that they are accessible and social hubs. Museums and prestigious galleries contain valuable knowledge and so do we. She has the skill and personality to bring the two together for optimum output, I really am inspired by that. I also love that Rosanna’s a bit random and extremely passionate, like me!! I also admire how she is articulate, a mesmerising storyteller and really solid in who she is. Simply divine!!

There’s so many more, however, I am really impressed by Ema Tavola and Torika Bolatagici. I find their curatorial and analytical approach to Pacific Island art and identity very engaging. They are feisty and passionate women and their knowledge, experience and focus is outstanding. I also love Indigenous artist, Bindi Cole’s work and Lindah Lepou’s couture work. It’s breathtaking!

From Mana Couture Collection

GameOn shell capelet AUD $500.00
Cuff. (med. Organe, blue) AUD $80.00
Cuff (large red) $140.00
Earrings, gold and black AUD $220.00
Earrings, pink AUD $180.00

What are you working on at the moment?
Designing Mana Couture’s 011/012 Spring/Summer collection and launching our tshirt label, Tee-Shout!™, which is a collaboration between my husband, Mark Yettica-Paulson and I.

I’m also working towards an official launch Haus Party for my new enterprise, Haus of Savvy Savage, a dynamic and exciting showcase of Pacific and global Indigenous art, design, lifestyle and collaboration. Lia Pa’apa’a and I are the Chiefs and we are so excited about organising our first retail pop up experience!!! More details very soon.

What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?
Oooo, my favourite question and there are a few dream collaborations: In fashion, I’d love to collaborate with Lindah Lepou, Jean Paul Gaultier, Romance was Born and Vivienne Westwood. In design(industrial) Patricia Urquiola, in architecture, Zaha Hadid and Glen Murcutt, and just because, Porche.

What are you looking forward to?
Launching Haus of Savvy Savage with some new work, other fun and exciting collaborations before the year is out and cruising around with my family in a bright orange VW van!!

Vinaka Maryann! I heart your work! You’re truly an inspiration.

Do check out Maryann’s Mana Couture collection here. And for those lucky enough to live in Melbourne see the links below for her upcoming workshops and exhibitions.

Interview conducted via email May – August , 2011. Images courtesy of Maryann Talia Pau unless otherwise stated.

Earrings | AUD $120.00 | Raffia, shell, chain | 2011

Maryann Talia Pau on the kokonut wireless:

Website: http://www.maryanntaliapau.net

Haus of Savvy Savage: http://www.hausofsavvysavage.com/

Mana Couture: http://www.maryanntaliapau.net/MTP/Mana_Couture.html#grid

Design File: makeUp at Harvest Workroom – Maryann Talia Pau: http://thedesignfiles.net/2011/07/makeup-at-harvest-workroom-maryann-talia-pau/

Upcoming Workshops and Exhibitions:

Craft Victoria – Craft Cubed Special Events
Haus of Savvy Savage & Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle
Venue: The Atrium, Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia
Date: Thursday 11 August 2011, 10am-1pm
Workshop: Learn to weave a simple table mat with artist Maryann Talia Pau, a Chief of Haus of Savvy Savage, in a banquet installation by Maryann and artist Rachael Waith. Also, see a weaving demonstration by some Super Weavers from the Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle and enjoy the chance to buy some beautiful one off pieces of woven jewellery. The PWWC is a space for Pacific Islander women, who meet once a month to share and learn Pacific crafts like weaving.
Bookings: click here
Cost: $AU50/$AU25 Craft Victoria Members

I’ll Show You My Craft If You Show Me Yours: Regal Savage
Craft Cubed Exhibitions
Venue: Craft Victoria, enCOUNTER and Gallery 3
31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Australia
Date: 22 August – 3 September 2011
Artist Talks: Saturday 3 September, 2pm
I’ll Show You My Craft If You Show Me Yours is a collaborative project designed to bring together people from different crafts to share processes, materials, and ideas.
Further reading: Maryann Talia-Pau & Emma Greenwood collaborate on upcoming Regal Savage exhibition

PACIFIC ISLAND WEAVING with MARYANN TALIA PAU
Venus: Harvest Workroom, 512 Lygon Street, East Brunswick, Melbourne, Australia
Date: 15-16 October 2011, 10:30am-3:30pm
Bookings: click here
Cost: $Au290.00
Image via Harvest Workroom

A two day course covering basic weaving techniques that can be found across the Pacific Islands and Indigenous Australia led by local artist Maryann Talia Pau. Learn more about how Pacific Island craft, especially weaving, is central to Maryann’s practise, identity and approach to community development. Come and see how the traditional and contemporary are one, and weave yourself a basket, a piece of jewellery or a mat. We will have 2 days together to complete a piece of unique art that is influenced by Pasifika. All materials provided however feel free to bring along any bits you have at home – it’s amazing what you can weave with. For more information contact Harvest Workroom at info@harvestworkroom.com.au

Art of the Pacific Gallery
Venue: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Date: 28 May 2011 – 31 December 2012
The NGV opened a new Art of of the Pacific Gallery in May this year. The new Art of the Pacific gallery aims to introduce viewers to the cultural diversity, vitality and spirit resonance of Oceanic art and to some of its universe of forms, both old and new. This inaugural Pacific display features three body ornaments by Maryann.

“Each work is an offering of who I am, who I love and honour. Every piece comes from love. For me it has to. Love for who I am, for my family, our earth, our land, our people. Always love. Because love is power” ~ Maryann Talia Pau

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