The Fisherman’s Daughter: Fishing lives shared through art and old ropes

As a young girl, growing up on a jet boat and helping her dad with the lobster pots in Jurien Bay, Mandy Collinson thought nothing of her unusual life as she immersed herself in the marine environment that stirred and developed her artistic talents every day.

Life has a way of challenging us all, and it was only when this salty, small-town girl found herself raising her young family in Perth that she realised how idyllic her Jurien Bay upbringing had been.

After years of city life and a crumbled relationship, a visit from a tough old Jurien Bay fisherman provided a spark that turned Mandy’s life around.

“I knew I wasn’t my true self, but it was only when the fisherman asked what had happened to the young, vibrant fishing girl with the artistic passion he knew back at home, that I realised how much I had let life and the city strip away,” Mandy said.

In typical country fashion, the fisherman had a solution and dropped about a tonne of old fishing ropes onto Mandy’s lawn and suggested she use it to re-discover her old self.

“I can honestly say that my life changed on that day and has never been the same since”.

“It was like the light inside had been switched on again and I just jumped into the ropes, trimming them up, sorting them out and re-kindling my passion for art.”

Mandy’s art presents in many different forms, including old fishing ropes, driftwood and all sorts of nautical debris and reflects her passion for re-purposing what was once seaborne waste, flotsam and other nautical items and turning them into amazing art.

“I feel my style of art is a connection to my fishing heritage and location. The worn and tethered ropes, the weathered driftwood, the sun-bleached flotsam all tell a story of WA’s coastal communities and the fishers and the harsh beauty of nature,” Mandy said

Best known for her mats, baskets and textiles, Mandy is also an award-winning sculptor.

Mandy is totally at home in her studio

After several years of re-discovery, Mandy entered a ‘flotsam and jetsam’ competition for the Abrolhos Islands using driftwood and other items to create a scale-replica of the historic mutiny ship, Batavia, which saw her take home the Gallery Choice and Peoples’ Choice categories.

“I entered the competition as a curiosity and a desire to participate and ended up winning.

“Thinking back, it was quite a pivotal moment for me. You don’t know what your potential is until you put yourself out there, and for me it was a real confidence boost and encouraged me to start selling my art at the local markets and online under my brand – The Fisherman’s Daughter. I sold lots of mats and baskets, but there were also good sales for my other artwork and sculptures,” she added.

When an opportunity for a road trip to Broome (along with a surfing detour to Red Bluff) presented, Mandy immediately began packing the Hilux.

While camping, a few women recognised The Fisherman’s Daughter and asked if Mandy could show them how to create some mats and other art.

The experience evolved and Mandy now runs regular workshops and lessons in communities as far north as Derby and some 2,500 kilometres south to Esperance, including Aboriginal communities in the Pilbara and Kimberley.

“I love doing the workshops as I get to visit these amazing regional communities and meet these incredible people. I find it really empowering to see country women come together and discover their artistic talents. The nights tend to start out a little quiet, but always finish with a noisy room and lots of talk and laughter.

“There’s a real mental health benefit in bringing these women together to stir their artistic passions and to spend time with others and help break down some of the isolation that comes with regional living,” Mandy said.

What’s next for The Fisherman’s Daughter?

“I’m keen to help others join in this recycling art revolution. I love the process and passion of my art, but I’m also finding I get restless and want to do more to help others and stir their creative passion.

“I love how my art and the workshops help regional people meet and mix while giving a purpose and building a strong and positive connection to the fishing industry. I’m also loving that more people are beachcombing and cleaning the beaches to use the flotsam as art, as they now see ropes and other nautical debris in a different way,” Mandy said.

Exhibition and Event in April

If you want to check out Mandy’s artwork, The Fisherman’s Daughter is holding a public exhibition at the Coast Function Centre, Port Beach Road, North Fremantle from 15-17 April 2021. Find out more at www.facebook.com/WAFishermansDaughter

Drop off your old ropes

If you have nautical ropes or other commercial fishing items that are no longer needed, you can join dozens of other fishers around WA and donate them to The Fisherman’s Daughter to support her community service work. You can contact Mandy through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WAFishermansDaughter

Mandy’s award-winning Batavia replica made from driftwood and flotsam.