Textile designer Helen Durrant has worked with fibers for more than forty years. When she heard about the camels’ struggles throughout Central Australia, she became emboldened to act. So began her journey working predominately with camel wool.
“I found it offensive,” she said, “I decided that it was no use protesting unless I did something about it. I wanted to do something positive and that was to start utilizing products from the camels to show that they do have value and we don’t just necessarily need to let them rot.”
Helen lives at Ross River Resort, east of Alice Springs, in the very center of Australia. With her five pet camels, she is only person in Australia working with camel wool.
She knits, weaves and felts with the camel wool, to make her own ranges of beanies, scarfs, shawls, booties, ponchos and other garments. While globally camel wool is relatively easy to access, Helen says it can be difficult to source in Australia.
“It’s always evolving, I’m always looking for new things to make. People with camels tend to stockpile it not knowing what to do with it and don’t particularly want you to have it,” she said, “generally the wool will be from camels in in captivity that are tame. Once they start shedding, when it’s hot in the Summer, they get ragged around their flanks and the wool comes off them.
Helen spins the wool herself at Ross River, using a spinning wheel over forty-years-old from New Zealand.
“The rhythm of the wheel is quite mesmerising, and you can sit and meditate and spin for hours.”
It’s estimated to be more than 750,000 feral camels in Australia’s outback. While it’s growing, Helen says a local camel industry is still in its infancy.
“We’ve barely even sniffed at it yet,” she said, ” [but] I think there’s huge potential here. I don’t think it’s ever going to be something that somebody comes in from overseas and pours millions of dollars into, it will be people like me and it will start off as a bit of a cottage industry. And it will grow from there – and it is growing.”
Happy Humpday (^_^)