Iron ore is not the only natural resource of note in the Pilbara; the ancient landscape and the hard-working people also pack a punch.

Story By Lara Jensen

You name it – everything from toilet seats, rope, driftwood and pearl floats transformed into the most amazing and quirky artworks you can imagine,” says Geraldton gallery owner Pia Boschetti of her Flotsam and Jetsam Exhibition. “I wanted to create an exhibition in support of Clean Up Australia Day. It was a hit with locals and tourists and, by popular demand, has become an annual event.”
When Pia talks about the exhibition, there’s no mistaking her passion for art, her community and, in particular, the Abrolhos Islands where she farms pearls 70 kilometres west of Geraldton. “A group of dedicated locals collected rubbish on the Abrolhos Islands for artists to sort through and choose flotsam and jetsam for their chosen style of art,” Pia says. “Not only is it a fun art exhibition but it also creates awareness about respecting our environment by recycling and re-creating what we discard. I was just so happy and proud of the community for getting behind such a positive event.”
Born into a professional fishing family, Pia spent much of her childhood on Basile Island, a tiny strip of dry land only 250 metres long and 50m wide that is part of the Houtman Abrolhos, a cluster of 122 islands that extend from north to south across 100km of ocean. Every winter Pia’s father would move the family from the mainland for the lobster-fishing season. It was an idyllic childhood and one that left a huge impression on Pia, who chose the ocean for her workplace, first crayfishing for five years before navigating her way to a successful career in the pearling industry. “Learning the ropes crayfishing taught me so much,” Pia says. “It’s a tough line of work with plenty of challenges and you work hard for your money.”
Pia branched out into pearl farming in 1998 and today her farm is one of the major producers of black pearls in the state. Black, akoya and mabe pearls are all cultured on the 350-hectare pearl farm on the Abrolhos Islands, which is the most southern point in the world where black pearls can be commercially cultured.

This story excerpt is from Issue #86

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2013