First thing’s first, it’s really hard to know where to start.
This collection is a bit like an onion, it has many layers and each has purpose and meaning.
I probably don’t need to do much explaining of the collection name. I’m a rural woman, a farmer’s wife, here in Australia.
So why have I named my designs after rural women?
Well, many of the old barkcloths I’ve sewn with over the years have had women’s names on the selvedge. I always wondered if they were the names of real women and if so, who were they?
So that, combined with my belief that the more good fortune one has, the more obligation one has to give back. I decided with this opportunity I would like to give back to my fellow rural women, here, and elsewhere, by raising awareness of the reality of living life on the land.
While social media has in some ways worked towards closing the gap between city and country, I feel in another it has widened it. Oftentimes I feel that social media depicts rural life in an overly ‘styled’ way, and leaves many city folk believing it’s a leisurely ‘lifestyle’. True, it’s a life filled with joyful moments and great beauty, but it’s also a life that requires courage, resilience and strength to face the countless challenges of environment and isolation.
I hope by bringing you these women’s stories, I can play a small part in providing some balance to that ‘styled’ country life perspective, because behind the food you eat and the fibre you wear, there are real people and these people have stories and lives that don’t need editing or styling to be inspirational.
They’re my reasons behind the naming.
To finally share this collection which has taken more than 18 months to create feels much like I imagine undressing in front of a room full of strangers would. I’m laying my heart out for everyone to see and being a private person, I feel quite emotional for it all. This collection says very much who I am.
I’m truly thankful to my rural ladies for sharing their stories with me and for allowing me to share them with you.
I’d like to share a story a day through to Saturday, which for poetic timing is International Day for Rural Women.
Without further ado, I’d love you to meet Bindi.
Bindi’s a farmer right here in my ‘hood. I have so much admiration this friend of mine. Everyday that she goes about her work, she’s quietly and fearlessly challenging the farmer stereotype. While Bindi is much-loved and well-known in my area, she was also recognised on a national level back in 2012 when she was named Australian Young Farmer Of The Year. As well as mumming it to three little boys, wifing it and running a large-scale sheep and crop farm, she also works tirelessly to give back to her industry by sitting on numerous grower consultation committees, including to Australian Wool Innovation.
I’m in awe of her for so many reasons. She also makes the best mint sauce EVER and is goalie for our local field hockey team.
So please, meet Bindi…
“I always wanted to be a farmer.
I heard a friend say each time she tells someone she’s a farmer, the usual response is ‘oh so you married a farmer?’ and her response is always ‘no, my husband did’. That pretty much sums me up. I’m a woman and I’m a farmer.
Just the word ‘farmer’ implies a bloke in a flannelette shirt, with gnarled hands (I’m working on the hands). It’s masculine. It’s a bloke industry.
My dad’s a farmer. A farmer who had four daughters. He tells the story of being consoled by mates for having only daughters. They suggested he best sell the farm. He chuckles now, as he’s ended up with four daughters and two son-in-laws all involved in running his farm.
Growing up with three sisters on the farm, there were no ‘boy’ jobs or ‘girl’ jobs…they were all just jobs and we got on with it.
I went away for school in the city, boarding. I tried working in the city. I did the suits and high-heel thing for a few years, it was fun, but it just wasn’t me.
Being a mum of three, as well as a farmer, I think my biggest challenge is making the two roles fit together. Both have non-negotiable obligations. My kids have needs and there’s so much I want to give them, and then on the other hand, 17,000 head of stock have needs too, and neither can be neglected.
It’s hard, but it’s also an incredible opportunity to be able to share my work with my kids. From birth they’ve been out the paddock with me while I work. They’ve started school now, but as soon as the bus arrives back in the arvo, they’re straight out the paddock enjoying farm life.
I always want to know how everything works. I’ll have a go at anything; mechanics, I can weld, I can shear my own sheep (but I’m not good enough to make a living out of it).
I’ve got the best office in the world…my dog, my ute, the dirt and the sky.
I love watching my hard work yield; it’s a real deep satisfaction to watch the crops grow, and to watch the wool come off.
BINDI MURRAY, 35
‘Kunmallup’ Western Australia