Meet the Maker: Jenni Kemarre Martiniello

Kemarre Martiniello is a highly respected Arrernte glass artist from Central Australia who combines the traditional Aboriginal practice of weaving with the European practice of glass making. 

‘My aim is to produce a body of works that pay tribute to traditional weavers,’ Jenni says. ‘I want to recognise ancient cultural practicesincluding the beautiful forms of traditional woven eel and fish traps, dillibags and coiled and open weave baskets. In so doing, create contemporary glass works which are objects of cultural as well as artistic significance. 

While it’s impossible to actually weave glass, Jenni’s work uses the Venetian technique of canework to create magnificent glass pieces that imitate woven forms.  She uses hot blown glass and single, double straight and double twisted glass canes made from opaque colours overlaid with translucents. The glass is then blown and shaped to its final form, carved and polished.  

Jenni founded Kemarre Arts in 2006, the Australian Capital Territory's first independent Aboriginal-run social enterprise, supporting artists through grant writing, professional development programs, publishing, and product and pricing guidance. In 2012, Kemarre Arts won the ACT NAIDOC Award for Most Outstanding Agency.

In 2013, she was awarded the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Australia’s most prestigious prize for indigenous art.  

Her other awards and honours include the Canberra Critics Circle Award for Visual Arts (2011, 2013), the Wollotuka Acquisitive Art Prize (University of Newcastle, 2012), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Visual Arts Fellowship (2013-2015), and the Bay of Fires Art Prize (2016). 

Her work is in many major collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Museum of Australia, the Canberra Museum and Gallery, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the Australian Parliament House Collection, the National Art Glass Gallery, the Belau National Museum, the Corning Museum of Glass, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia, and the British Museum. 

Photo: Lean Timms