Sooty Welsh has moved back to his hometown of Coonamble after moving around, mostly in Sydney. As part of the Stolen Generation, his recent six years in Coonamble are the longest time he’s ever spent on the land of his ancestors.
“I am Wailwan. My mother was born out at Quambone; my father was from a place called Wingadee, that is all on country – I’ve never really thought much about being connected to the country but I can feel it now – it is home now”.
Sooty is a ceramic artist, who makes hand crafted pots and pieces, richly glazed and marked with unique markings. These are the markings that are closely linked to the Wailwan people and have been found carved on the trees and into the land in the region.
“I originally learned about Aboriginal culture in Sydney, making artifacts at a cultural centre. Years later, I began to record things with my camera. With that awareness, I came back to Coonamble and was ready and able to learn more about my own culture”.
Tree carvings, traditional tools and cultural artifacts are all inspirations for Sooty’s art. The pieces he creates are hand made and based on the cultural information that is etched into the area. A traditional Coolamon can be converted into a small bowl or even an incense burner.
“Nobody really knows exactly what the markings mean, and I don’t pretend to either, but it has a magic feel about it and it is what inspires the designs I make”.
Sooty is always happy to take up his other creative pursuits to keep himself inspired. When he has had enough of ceramics, he may turn to photography, which he loves, or even to traditional artifact making. The important thing to him, is that he maintains his creativity; for his story, for his understanding, and for his health.
“From time to time I’ve had problems with depression, but when I make art then those things aren’t there. I’m always trying to get other people to participate, because I know that it’s good for your health”.