Farm scrap material for best creation

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Bob GarnantCountryman

Farm junk - fencing wire, tin, chain, wool pack materials and railway nails - has been used by the winner of the Dowerin GWN Machinery Field Days Ag Art Wear competition to make a statement about life on a farm.

Moora farmer Natalie Tonkin used her past art design education and florist skills to create the three-dimensional garment from the farm materials.

"I named my design 'Me', knowing the commitment and sacrifices that certain women must make towards a farming life," Natalie said.

Born in the beautiful surrounds of Kendenup, then robustly educated in Perth, Natalie traded her early art dreams for love when she met farmer Brad Tonkin.

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The couple are raising their two children, Sarah, 2, and Holly, 4, on the family's sheep and crop farm in the Wheatbelt.

The 39-year-old said her Ag Art Wear design included a wire veil which encapsulated the wearer in partial isolation.

"This is representative of living in certain extremities of regional WA," Natalie said.

"Tin flowers adhered to the veil are reminiscent of the natural beauty of the country - the trade-off we hold true for those times of limited social and aspiring interaction."

She said the accessory knee-high boots, made of old shed tin, chain and railway nails, were of heavy and impractical construction.

Natalie said they represented the burden of farm labour; yet were adorned with a rustic haute couture appeal.

"They were not made for walking, yet the medieval charm says, kick me out beyond the limits of my captive fence post."

"My creative spirit inspires me to reach out into the vast horizon, at times, way over the rainbow."

At the centre of the Natalie's design is the woolpack dress which represents her family's toil to produce 150 bales of fine wool annually.

"Our Kenilworth wool clip and the wheat crop are the heart and soul of our farm," she said.

"We are no different from other farming couples who struggle for success - our commitment to a productive life has its ups and downs, mainly contributed to good years and bad, emotional highs and lows."

The appeal of the Dowerin Ag Art Wear competition has given Natalie a new outlook on her creative talent.

She was a dual winner at Dowerin with her other design, entered in the most challenging Landcare Awareness section, being awarded the top prize.

Natalie's 'Let the Birds Sing' design is a traditional dress made up of vine and bird's nests which emphasises the human impact on the environment.

"My father was passionate about landcare which had an influence on me," she said.

Seeking to share the love of art with her local community, Natalie recently began hosting art workshops and inviting local women to discover their own hidden aspirations.

"Country women are exceptionally talented and I expect a few of my students will be working towards an inventive project which will express how they cope with the challenges of farming life through art," she said.

For her win in the Act-Belong-Commit Ag Art Wear design, Natalie received an all expenses paid trip to the New Zealand national field days which will allow entry into that country's design competition.

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