Jukurrpa Designs has launched a collection of eight glasses frames this week inspired by artwork from the Warlukurlangu Aboriginal artists located in the Central Australia Desert.
The collection launched online on Monday and will be available in stores across Australia over the next few weeks, with 10 percent of profits going back to the Warlukurlangu community.
Each pair of frames is inspired by a specific painting and comes with a matching microfibre cloth printed with the original artwork plus a card with a bio of the artist and the meaning of their painting.
The collection took nearly three years to create, and now head designer Murray O’Keeffe is hoping the Australian public will support their brand which is about more than just the frames.
“I really want to show the world, starting with Australia, just how beautiful the artwork is and just how amazing these artists are and the story behind the artwork,” he said.
“It’s something really Australian, there’s meaning behind it, feeling behind it and history behind it … it’s not just selling frames, there’s a bigger picture behind this.”
Originally from Ireland, Mr O’Keeffe comes from a family of optometrists dating back to 1880.
He has been fascinated with Australian Aboriginal artwork and culture since he was a kid growing up in Ireland, saying he watched the ABC series Bush Tucker Man regularly as a kid.
Mr O’Keeffe made his first venture into designing frames about seven years ago when he visited a small Indonesian village where his wife was raised and became inspired by the local artists there.
He designed a collection of sunglasses based off their artwork, and whilst it was successful, he found the Australian people lacked a connection to the design of the frames.
Alongside his Australian business partner of 20 years, they eventually decided to take the leap into designing a range of frames inspired by Indigenous artwork.
Mr O’Keeffe said they believed spectacle frames would be a unique platform to showcase Indigenous artwork.
“Local artists license to a lot of people who put the painting designs on scarfs, ties … and look really beautiful, so I thought if we can put them on a spectacle frame and do it right and do it high quality I think it would look amazing,” he said.
However, they nearly gave up on the concept because it was proving to be too expensive, but Mr O’Keeffe kept persisting, and eventually landed a license agreement with the Warlukurlangu community.
Mr O’Keeffe said he then faced the struggle of choosing which artwork to use and how to best represent it with his frames.
“You can’t put everything on a frame because it’s just such a small area, the artwork has to be highlighted in that tiny temple area,” he said.
“To choose those eight designs I went through about 60 to 80 paintings, some were a bit more suitable for kids and some were too big to put on a frame.”
The frames themselves are both affordable, around $240-$260 each, and very high quality, as Mr O’Keeffe wanted to make them accessible to the public while maintaining the integrity of the artwork.
“It’s the best quality you can get really … I purposely did that because I didn’t want to bring out something cheap that would cheapen the artwork,” he said.
Mr O’Keeffe said the motivation for designing these frames was not just about his passion for optics, but his desire to give back to the Indigenous community and the country he now calls home.
“[Aboriginals] are the First Australians and I wanted to give something back to them as well and show my appreciation of what they’ve done and what they’ve been through over thousands of years,” he said.
“I really just wanted to showcase their paintings and the artwork because I’m just very passionate about how it looks … I’m just the guy who designs the frames, it’s the artwork that I really want to be front and center.”
In the future, Mr O’Keeffe hopes to extend the range with children’s glasses as well as sunglasses.
With the success of the business, Mr O’Keeffe also hopes they can give even more profit back to the Warlukurlangu community.
By Sarah Mozley