Traditionally people in Utopia carve tools and ceremonial objects such as coolamons, clapping sticks, shields and spears. Since the 1970s and the 1980s people have also carved birds, animals and images of people to sell to tourists. These carvings have been recognised as art alongside the world famous Utopia paintings and batik, and have been the subject of exhibitions.
Artists often make necklaces and bracelets from seeds and gumnuts. Often the nuts are painted in soft beautiful colours and short brush strokes, characteristic of Utopia paintings. Making the sculptures involves selecting and felling an appropriate tree, often the soft and light ininti beanwood tree or the hard, heavy mulga.
The trunk is cut down to an appropriate section and the sculpture is then chiselled out using a small axe, files and knives. Finally it is sandpapered smooth and painted with acrylic paint. Waltja buys carvings from women in Utopia and also Engawala and Titjikala. Subjects have included frogs, different species of owls and small marsupial mammals. Making and selling carvings and necklaces involves a whole process of collecting materials, creating something beautiful, and earning money to support themselves and their families.
Below: Owl carving made by Rosie Kunoth and Kangaroo on right made by Rosie Pula.