Using our Collection to Inspire Art

Article | Updated 3 months ago

Dr Moya Smith, Head of Anthropology and Archaeology, teamed up with renowned ceramicist Stewart Scambler to run a unique workshop for Perth Festival. In this masterclass students examined and discussed water carrying objects from WA Aboriginal communities and other cultures. They then made their own water carrier from terracotta clay.

One of the objects Dr Smith showed at the workshop was an oolarda

Long wooden handcrafted bowl in the shape of a long deep dish

Caption: Long wooden handcrafted bowl in the shape of a long deep dish
Image courtesy WA Museum

This oolarda was made by Bardi people, from Lombadina in the Kimberley. It has a beautiful shape, with pleats on either end tied with bark string.

It is made from the bark of a grey box gum tree, Eucalyptus tectifica, called noorda.

Oolarda are traditionally made by women and can be used to carry water, fruits and food. Larger oolarda can be used as baby carriers.  

Dr Smith says the oolarda is made by stripping the bark off the tree, soaking it in water then warming it over ashes and hot coals to create its shape. The ends are formed by pinch-pleating and secured with bark string which binds it into shape.

Pinch pleating bark is a similar technique used in pleating clay or sewing.

“This oolarda is incredibly beautiful and a very practical object. It will be wonderful to see the final work by the participants and if they apply some of these traditional techniques into their clay work.”


This ceramics masterclass is presented as part of the public program for Perth Festival’s Museum of Water project, which the Museum proudly supports.

Created by UK artist Amy Sharrocks, the Museum of Water asks people to make watery donations and share the memories that go with them.  The result is a collection of hundreds of vessels and stories being exhibited at the Fremantle Arts Centre until 23 March 2018.