Tarni Jarvis spent countless hours just making the material for her tribal dance dress before she even got to creating her actual garment.
But the 100+ hours she put in to the dress were repaid with a stellar study score in her year 12 product design and technology subject and a coveted invitation to display her dress at Melbourne Museum in the annual Top Designs exhibition.
Tarni is one of just nine VCE students from across Victoria selected in the product design and technology category of Top Designs.
Her creation, titled Parramal Puna Punai, or Little Emu Girl, is an indigenous dance dress made from possum fur and emu feathers which Tarni sourced from sustainable suppliers.
The Ballarat High School student spent hours felting possum fur in to material suitable for the dress.
“The students at year 12 have to develop their own brief, which has to meet the needs of an end user,” said Tarni’s teacher Fran Deutsher. “Tarni chose to look at her indigenous dance group, where she shows quite a lot of leadership in terms of her indigenous community,” she said.
“She was trying to develop a dance garment that meets her indigenous culture and expresses the transition of the girls through the dance group … a garment to reflect identity as part of the group.”
Sustainability is a key part of the project and after much research Tarni sourced the possum furs from a Tasmanian company that has a permit to harvest possums for meat. The emu feathers that were turned in to tassles were sourced from an emu farm.
But the raw materials didn’t come cheap, with the possum alone costing $150 per kilogram. “It was an expensive outlay to express her love of her culture.”
Tarni worked alongside two other students doing VCE product design and technology at Ballarat High School last year, with their competitive relationship spurring all three on to good results.
Top Designs is an annual exhibition showcasing work from the most outstanding VCE students. It runs from March 30 to July 14 at Melbourne Museum.
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