About our Agency
The seeds of Solid Lines emerged from Western Arrarnta Country.
A group of young artists from Ntaria School engaged in a series of design workshops, led by RMIT researcher Nicola St John. This fuelled the development of an innovative communication design enterprise, Ntaria Design, driven by students keen to work within Australia’s design and commercial art spaces. A crack quickly appeared, and the lack of culturally supportive pathways for emerging First Nations creatives to access the industry became apparent.
The idea of a First Nations illustration agency first materialised amidst Nicola’s week long Jacky Winter Gardens residency in 2019. Upon meeting Jacky Winter’s director, Jeremy Wortsman, the two began to consider how to best approach and support such a venture.
Emrhan Tjapanangka Sultan — an artist, and a long time collaborator of Nicola’s involved in the Ntaria design workshops — was introduced to lead the concept in partnership with the Jacky Winter Group.
In response to both the Black Lives Matter movement and a commitment to the future of this project, the Jacky Winter Group acknowledged a need for internal reflection and change. A ‘Statement of Commitment to the First Nations of Australia’ was developed. The document was written to increase cultural awareness; build beneficial partnerships with First Nations organisations, communities and individuals; and raise the status and visibility of First Nations creatives.
This internal engagement work was mirrored by broader community consultation with community leaders and local traditional owners, alongside the building of a long-term partnership with Emhran — now the community engagement coordinator at Solid Lines.
Over the next few years, we developed a process to strengthen respectful relationships and opportunities within a marginalised creative ecosystem. This focused on establishing a platform for First Nations artists to be represented fairly. It became paramount for our project to bridge the gap between First Nations art and commercial production.
We listened to First Nations creatives at a grassroots level, who highlighted where, and what action needed to be taken. Their voices and values ring loudly at the heart of this venture. The extensive research underpinning Solid Lines can be accessed here.
Solid Lines is now proud to spearhead a process that has been scarcely seen in Australia. We are a First Nations led illustration agency, fiercely committed to cultural acknowledgement and safety.
We have worked to understand the crucial meaning behind First Nations Intellectual Property — not only for ourselves, but to forge a future for educated and productive commercial client relationships. We are committed to broadening the conversation surrounding what First Nations art is, and challenging any fixed understandings of its aesthetic.
Solid Lines provides the platform and protection to support a transformative shift across industry, offering First Nations creatives access to fair and respectful commercial representation.
‘Aboriginal art is evolving and we’re evolving as well… We don’t want to be pigeonholed as Aboriginal artists but be acknowledged as contemporary artists in our own right.’
The future of Solid Lines will evolve through a staged pathway. These phases have been carefully refined to create opportunities for two-way knowledge sharing with The Jacky Winter Group, while paving the way for First Nations ownership and control from the outset.
We envisioned this process as a nest — starting as a place to nurture First Nations creatives, and provide necessary support within a marginalised creative space. The primary objective is for the agency to flourish and grow, before taking flight as completely independent in its own right.
Below is an abridged version of our full Memorandum of Understanding. To view the full document that completely outlines how Solid Lines will transition to a fully First Nations owned, managed, and controlled business, please click here.
Stage 1: A nesting period, which utilises and is dependent on the resources and support of The Jacky Winter Group, while being overseen by a First Nations project manager.
Upon launching, Solid Lines will be guided by consultation and support from Emrhan, while The Jacky Winter Group meets all personnel, facilities and other requirements. Gross revenue generated will be distributed accordingly: 65% to the relevant First Nations artist/s, 25% to Jacky Winter, 10% to a savings account of Managed Funds dedicated to facilitating the commencement of Stage 2.
Stage 2: A hatchling or joint venture which reflects a collaboration of resources, skills and assets, and demonstrates First Nations management and involvement.
Stage 2 will begin when the following requirements are met: the amount of Managed Funds is equal or greater than one hundred thousand dollars, and Solid Lines can sustain at least two ongoing staff members from its revenue.
Upon commencement, Solid Lines and The Jacky Winter Group will negotiate the ownership and management of the agency moving forward. This will first include entering into a long form Shareholders Agreement, ensuring Solid Lines is First Nations majority owned, managed and controlled. A Skills and Capability Transfer Plan detailing how Jacky Winter will transfer skills and capability to Emrhan will be negotiated, alongside a First Nations Workforce Strategy detailing how Solid Lines will increase and develop its First Nations workforce.
Stage 3: A First Nations owned, managed and controlled business that takes flight, and can evidence trading independently. Stage 3 will commence when any relevant milestones in the Skills and Capability Transfer Plan have been met. Although The Jacky Winter Group will exit Solid Lines, they will continue to offer and provide support where required.
Our Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, clearly encapsulates this pathway, detailing each phase in conjunction with Marrawah Law.
You can view the complete and comprehensive MOU here:
EMRHAN TJAPANANGKA SULTAN
Emrhan Tjapanangka Sultan is a co-researcher and the community engagement coordinator for Solid Lines. He has previously worked as a First Nations engagement advisor for a variety of organisations, including Orygen, Relationships Australia, The Salvation Army, Oxfam Australia, and CAAMA. He is also a dynamic artist. Emrhan belongs to the Luritja and Western Arrernte Nations in Central Australia as well as Kokatha Nation in South Australia.
NICOLA ST JOHN
Nicola is a design researcher at RMIT and has been pivotal to the establishment of Solid Lines, leading the research to bring together First Nations voices to establish this venture. She continues to support the establishment of capacity building, educational, and community based projects — ensuring the monitoring and evaluation of this work alongside the Solid Lines team.
First Nations Collaborators
From l-r, Declan miller, Emmy Webbers, Tyrown Waigana, Emrhan Sultan, Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Di Kerr and ENOKi
The significance of Solid Lines lies in the true extent of its collaboration — spanning from First Nations creatives, industry, and cultural and intellectual property consultants.
Every stage of development has addressed current experiences, challenges and opportunities for First Nations access and participation within the design and commercial art industries, through direct First Nations engagement.
We have respectfully engaged with First Nations people both locally across Melbourne and nationally, enabling multiple perspectives and experiences to be included within our dialogue. We recognise that consultation is forever ongoing, and we are continuing to engage and build respectful relationships with a range of First Nations organisations, businesses, peak bodies, communities and artists as the future of Solid Lines unfolds.
The Jacky Winter Team
The Jacky Winter Group is one of Australia’s largest creative service agencies. Under the direction of Jeremy Wortsman, Jacky Winter represents more than a hundred Australian illustrators, and produces thousands of commercial commissions each year for the world’s largest brands and ad agencies. They also manage the Collingwood gallery space, Lamington Drive.
Jacky Winter is backed by a dedicated team of agent-producers who support every artist, client and project. Each member is deeply passionate about the artists they represent, and works hard to understand nuanced and individual artistic practices. All Solid Lines artists have the entire Jacky Winter workforce standing proudly behind them.
The Jacky Winter Group is a commercially driven creative agency, carving paths for talented artists to collaborate with clients of all kinds.
Since 2006, they have driven the production of over 12,000 commercial projects, working with clients from Apple to NASA. Behind the economic mechanisms of client-based work, Jacky Winter promotes opportunities for artists to excel within the broader parameters of a healthy creative economy. Each project is united by the core values of Compassion, Creativity, and Commerce.
It is over the past 15 years that the Jacky Winter team have finely honed the art of creative representation and project management.
The first ‘nesting’ phase of this venture sees Solid Lines as incubating under the larger Jacky Winter structure. This ensures full access to all the tools and networks at Jacky Winter’s disposal — with fully staffed offices in Melbourne, London and New York, and a client network spanning across the globe.
Jacky Winter acknowledges that their position and privilege affect which artists and artwork is recognised, legitimised and compensated. The Solid Lines / Jacky Winter partnership has been carved from a commitment to education, the scrutinisation of existing practices, and a mutual desire to make meaningful change for First Nations creatives in the commercial art industry.
From r-l, Emrhan, Jeremy & Nicola
‘We are committed to utilising our resources of time, money and privilege to take actions that provide meaningful opportunities for First Nations and Black Creatives.’
We especially give thanks and are grateful to those that have engaged in open and honest dialogue with us about their experiences, and in reimagining a more supportive design and commercial art industry for First Nations voices; Charlotte Allingham, Coree Thorpe, Emmy Webbers, Darcy McConnell, Jess Wright, April Phillips, Declan David Miller, Tyrown Waigana, Molly Hunt, Ryhia Dank and Keisha Leon.
We are grateful for Michelle Deshong in leading and facilitating the workshops where the knowledge and stories in our extensive research have been drawn, and for creating safe spaces to engage in meaningful conversation.
Personal conversations with Carolyn Briggs, founder of the Boon Wurrung Foundation and Dr Terri Janke, Solicitor Director of Terri Janke and Company shaped the development of this project, and we thank them for sharing their vast knowledges with us.
Governance and innovations consultant Rebecca Harnett provided useful links to networks and services, and we greatly appreciate her support and assistance in bringing this project to fruition.
We would also like to thank Leah Cameron and Kylie Arlidge from Marrawah Law for their support in taking our ideas and creating solid policies and structures for our new venture.
Designed by Emrhan Tjapanangka Sultan in 2022