It comes as no surprise to learn that Molly Wattle Boney, the winner of the five and under category in the TDF Kids Art Awards, comes from an exceptionally creative family. Her mum, Tessa Nuku (aka Tessa Thames), is a talented singer songwriter, and dad, Brendon Boney (aka The Magpie Swoop), is also a musician, who has worked with Bangarra Dance Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir St Theatre, and Ilbijerri Theatre. The pair met over 15 years ago at rehearsals for a big inter-school performance, and played music together for years in their band, Microwave Jenny. In fact, Tessa and Brendon were driving town to town on tour up until Tessa was 30 weeks pregnant with Molly!
Both Tessa and Brendon are from First Nations backgrounds, and mentor First Nations students at a nearby high school through the Solid Ground Program. They see creativity as a way of connecting to the bigger picture.
Molly has the kind of cheeky grin that will instantly make you smile back. As well as painting she loves dancing and singing, and her parents are always there to help her with whatever creative outlet she wants to pursue. We chatted with Tessa more about soon-to-be-six-year-old Molly, their creative family, and the question everyone has been asking – when and where we can buy a print of Molly’s beautiful artwork!
Hey Tessa! How did you and Brendon first meet? When was that, and what were you both like back then?
We met backstage at a ‘Schools Spectacular’ rehearsal in 2005. Back when it was held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre that had the tiny McDonald’s underneath with those plastic flap curtains to keep all the pigeons out. Brendon was living in Wagga Wagga at the time, and would fly to and from Sydney for rehearsals. I, on the other hand, was only travelling from Umina Beach. We were both ‘Featured Artists’ and definitely spent a bit of time with each other between practice, too much time maybe haha.
I’m not sure we were that different to who we are now, except I no longer carry around my Discman & Power Puff Girl CD carrier, and he no longer has dreadlocks or wears a shell necklace!
Tell us about both of your creative backgrounds.
Brendon has studied music, but I didn’t really see that as the path for me. He’s shared his experiences of getting his degree and it’s only made me more comfortable with my decision not to pursue formal education with regard to my music! We both write, compose, produce, record, tour and perform music and it’s given us opportunities to work in the commercial pop industry as well as in film, television and theatre. My mum is a visual artist and that’s been a pretty big influence on Molly.
Has Molly always been interested in art making?
I think she was probably destined to be creative. Her life started with her on tour with my husband and I from the comfort of my belly listening to mum on repeat. Painting is only one of many things that brings her joy. She also loves singing and dancing and anything that involves creating something that wasn’t there before. As soon as there is something she wants to create, whether it be a song, a dance, a brush stroked masterpiece, we are at the ready.
Are there many other artists or creatives in your families?
Too many to mention. My dad is a builder but also a bit of an inventor. He loves to sing, as did his father. My mum is a superb visual artist. She made our clothes growing up and I still get her to make me pieces today. She’s pretty good at everything really. My brother is a beautiful carver and drawer. Both my sisters could successfully give anything creative a go. But honestly that’s just my side of the family so the list most certainly could go on and on.
Do you decide on what Molly is going to paint/draw together, or does she just go for it?
Most of the time she just goes for it. Other times it’s something she has read or seen that week. Most paintings are done over a few days, so it stays stuck to the table till she says she’s done. Sometimes I’ll share my thoughts if I see that she’s stuck but 99% of the time my ideas get shut down! So basically all I do is change the dirty water and find her favourite brushes.
What kind of kid is Molly?
She would be the first to describe herself as a chatterbox. From a very young age she has loved words and learning the meanings of words. Loves to read, especially joke books. Loves being with her cousins. Not fussed on fashion. Hair’s always a mess. Loves kindy but still fondly reminisces on her preschool days, haha. Enjoys a crowd. She’s pretty switched on, gentle and hilarious.
What made you decide to give Molly the middle name ‘Wattle’?
As I mentioned previously we were still touring when I was 30 weeks pregnant. On our long drives from town to town to perform we saw A LOT of Wattle. Giant clouds of golden joy and it would always make me smile. One day it just clicked and I just said “what about Wattle?” and I remember both of us just going “Naaawww!” and that was it! We knew it was going to suit her perfectly. Molly was born in the first week of August which is when Wattle is most golden. An outstanding emblem of warmth and resilience, that’s our Molly.
How does culture inform your family’s creativity? And in what ways do you express that?
I think a big part of our culture is understanding that it’s not all about you. You’re a small part of a big picture and you use your creativity and art to help you connect and find your place in that bigger picture. That’s why you’ll find a lot of First Nations art reflects land and animals and community. We’ve traveled a lot and we try to expose ourselves and Molly to all types of cultures including the many different, diverse First Nations cultures we have right here! Molly goes to the local community hub and learns the dances, that helps her understand the stories and how things move and informs her own art. She also weaves grass and that’s helped her see how the world around can help her create.
In what ways is creative expression important to your family?
In every way, not so much because of what we have learnt in theory or technique but it’s because of who we are. Art runs generations deep in our family. Builders, master craftsman and crafts women, architects, weavers, illustrators, writers, singers, story tellers, performers – you name it. Created to be creative. I think art teaches you to have courage to fail and confidence to find success.
What lessons do you hope Molly will take from growing up surrounded by so much creativity?
That her own creativity can help her connect to the world around her. I hope she understands how it can help her learn her history, and also forge her own path. Also, that she doesn’t have to do what everyone else around her is doing to feel comfortable with herself. I hope that she understands that arts and creativity isn’t about trying to be perfect but just trying and that she knows deep down that if she wants to be in creative arts, it’s just as needed and valid a job as any other out there. Maybe even more so!
Finally – where and when can we purchase our own Molly Wattle Boney print?!
Her website will official launch July 7th. If you can’t wait that long, you can also purchase A4 & A3 prints straight from Molly’ Instagram! All you have to do is DM her *which is me, Tessa* and we can sort it out for you.
Brendon Boney (aka The Magpie Swoop), Tessa Nuku (aka Tessa Thames) and Molly at home! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Molly with her winning artwork from the TDF Design Awards, and painting at home with Tessa. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Tessa and Brendon usually just let Molly go for whatever idea she has – 99% of the time their input gets shut down by Molly! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Molly at home, getting ready to go to the beach. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
The fam at the beach near their home in Ettalong Beach, New South Wales. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Is it just us or does Molly look EXACTLY like both her mum and dad?! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
The family hanging out at the beach. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
The family hanging out at the beach. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Molly finding bits and pieces at the beach. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Tessa pushing Molly on the swings at the park. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Tessa chasing after Molly! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Tessa and Molly playing at the park. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
These two! – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.
Tessa, Brendon and Molly at their favourite local pizza place, Tropicana Social Club. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.