How is this for a coincidence? Australian Native First Nations art, and especially Queenie Mckenzie paintings really appealed. Then an art gallery friend called to discuss the issue of having these paintings translated to the medium of woollen rugs. Blow me down, this gallerista represented Queenie Mckenzie along with other Indigenous artists and had a Merch deal already prepared and signed.


We in The Rug Shop had dabbled in producing rugs in non-traditional designs. My favourites were the Sonya Delaunay paintings, and her large-scale part-circles were not dissimilar from the full shapes of Queenie Mckenzie.

The offer looked interesting and at first, I was keen. I had the raw materials and the weavers at the ready. What’s not to like?

OK we planned a business meeting to work out the finance details. But as I slept on it, I became increasingly uneasy. For instance, I am from the generation that knows the humour behind the meme “Pro Hart Wastepaper Basket.” There was also the “Ken Done Merch.” In Surfers Paradise one could buy a dizzying range of clothing and homewares printed with these painters art.

The thought occurred to me that if one were to make a copy why do it by hand? If it is only a copy and not a handmade work of art why not just make it by machine anyway? Certainly, the unequal power of the dollar can be exercised in the second or third world. And here’s the rub.

Western, Global North, rich developed societies have morphed from slavery and colonialism into a new exchange rate difference that is repeat: Colonialism 2.0.


Consider the Meme “If branded, its suspect”. It works fine for baked beans or autos but with traditions such as the handmade rug there is no copyright, no patent. If it is branded its suspect.

There is a precedent: Jim Thompson “saved” the Thai Silk industry which was at a low ebb after WWII. 1950’s and 60’s Hollywood stars wore Thai Silk; men’s ties were mass produced and this was applauded as a great success story. Following Jim’s mysterious disappearance in 1967, a large factory was set up and money was made. By the time this fashion in the West ended nobody could remember the original cultural reasons for the weaving, and the quality took a race to the bottom as unscrupulous fakery took hold.