In the wake of the summer bushfires, never before has Kangaroo Island appeared more as an emblem for Australia. With nearly two thirds of its landmass licked by flames and now in a slow process of recovery, the island is an image of ecological precariousness, competing economic demands and community resilience.
Lara Tilbrook, artist, activist, and owner of Bush Organics, has made Kangaroo Island her home since 2007. The island is at the centre of her life. Her business, studio, beehives, medicinal plant orchard and home are situated on a vast acreage of wild bushland, much of which was hit hard by the fires. The island also makes up the literal material of her art. Trained as a goldsmith, Tilbrook crafts jewellery and body adornment from species endemic to the island, transforming gathered flora and fauna into rare artefacts and records of biodiversity.
Tilbrook’s 2013 artwork National Treasure was featured in the exhibition Our Future in the Landscape, presented by Guildhouse ART WORKS Emerging Curator Program and the City of Adelaide, and recently acquired by the city. The finely laced collar is crafted from the quills of a Kangaroo Island short-beaked echidna, recovered from the roadside. Since 2013, Tilbrook’s message has become still more prescient : “When first making the piece the echidna was not listed as a threatened species. It is now classified as endangered. “