For Fitzroy Crossing Artist Illiam Nargoodah, his selection as a finalist in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) came as a shock.

Based at Mangkaja Arts in WA’s Kimberly region, the 23 year old craftsman combines woodwork, welding and forging to create functional knives and blades made from found objects and offcuts to create his collection ‘Lost Blades.

Illiam Nargoodah holds one of his handmade knives in a workshop

Illiam is a finalist among 65 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists who have been selected to exhibit in the 2020 Telstra NATSIAA, Australia’s most prestigious and longest running Indigenous art awards. The annual awards showcase an inspiring breadth of work from both emerging and established artists.

See him at work here.

To Illiam, the nomination came as a big surprise. Coming from a family of artists, he has made knives and similar objects since he was a child. Drawing inspiration from movies, he started making toy blades and progressed to real ones as he grew older. His father, leatherwork artist Johnny Nargoodah, collects knives, and Illiam found inspiration through digging into his father’s collection.

Illiam Nargoodah works his coal forgeHis works are crafted using recycled and found materials, including sheep shears, garden shears, old coins, used pipes, steel from old gates and even bits of hose pipe. Even his forging anvil is made from an old railway spike he found, for use with his simple coal forge.

Resourcefulness is a central theme of his work. He makes glue with honey and native sap and uses wood from offcuts and local plants. For Illiam, using found objects comes from practicality: he can source the materials himself and it costs little to nothing.

The knives and blades are also fully functional. Illiam skilfully works the metal for their individual purposes, such as the cheese knife and the hunting knife. The unique nature of each piece in ‘Lost Blades’ comes from the sheer range of source material; each piece is made with the unique materials in mind, combining their former use with their new use.

A handmade knife is displayed artistically with its sheath

Judging of the NATSIAA exhibition takes place later in July, with the awards to be announced on Friday August 7 at the opening ceremony. Keep an eye out for the exhibition from Saturday August 8 with online viewing availability, as well as the opportunity to vote for the People’s Choice Award.

See some of Illiam’s ‘Lost Blades’ below:
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