For Kristie Peters, painting is in her blood. It’s the way she best expresses herself and copes with the hand life deals her.
These days, she lives with partner Tim Mutton in Ngunnawal country at Narrabundah, with their 10 boys aged from seven to 18. In addition to her six boys, Kristie welcomed the three sons of her twin brother when he died three years ago – and also the friend of one of her sons who needed family support.
Big families aren’t unusual for Kristie, who comes from an extended family of 15 in Central Western NSW, in fact, they’re her lifeblood. As the only Indigenous kids at their school, Kristie said she and her siblings struggled to feel part of it, particularly with what they were taught.
“I think that’s when I started painting,” she said, “It was a way to express myself, to say who I was and where I was from.”
She said her family was her greatest support growing up, particularly her stepfather, also a painter, who encouraged her to live her creative dream.
Everything Kristie does now is with family in mind.
“The 10 boys are the best little board of directors you could have. We’re a team,” she said.
Although passionate about expressing herself through painting, Kristie said she never had the confidence to do so, never thought she was good enough. Until one day when she was taking some of her boys to school the principal asked to see her.
“I went to see him and he said I kept popping into his head,” she said. “He asked me if I painted … and all I remember is that I did my ugly cry, and said ‘yes’.”
She ended up painting a work for the school and, she says she’s not sure how, was later contacted by American Express and asked if she would do a work for them as part of a reconciliation action plan.
“I don’t know how it all came to be,” she said, “but what it has done is manage to keep my stepdad’s legacy alive.”
Today, Kristie and her partner Tim are the brains behind Yarrudhamarra Creations. “Yarrudhamarra”, taken from the Wiradjuri language, means “dream”, and aims to connect people through First Nations art and culture.
They make and sell contemporary Indigenous art, from original pieces to clothes, prints and homewares, all with the same goal in mind.
“Yarrudhamarra Creations is passionate about painting that reflects on our own personal stories and supporting each other in our unique journey of Reconciliation,” according to its mantra. “Through all our creations, our art has been a powerful medium for healing intergenerational trauma.
“We took our creative gifts, pains and losses, our mess, our flaws and our art and turned them into a purpose and a passion.”
Even though her career is now thriving, Kristie is still shaking her head about where life has taken her. One of her dress designs was selected for a special runway event at the 2022 Melbourne Fashion Week, designed to showcase the best in Indigenous design.
“It was a surreal experience,” she said, “to see it in the Melbourne Fashion Show. I still find it hard to believe it.
“It was a hand-painted dress that I’d made. But now I think seeing it up there has made me even more determined to continue doing this.
“I promised my stepdad before he passed away that I wouldn’t waste my talent, so that’s what I’ll try to do.”