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Shellworker, was born on the 14th February 1931 at the ocean lookout area known as Hill 60 at Port Kembla, NSW. During World War II the Aboriginal people living at Hill 60 were moved on to 'The Official Camp’ at nearby Coomaditichie Lagoon, the hill being considered a strategic defence point for the army.

Timbery began collecting and sorting shells according to size and colour at La Perouse in 1936 at the age of five (three years before the attributed date of a shellworked harbour bridge [artist unknown] in the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection. The Harbour Bridge was opened in 1932). In these formative years Timbery learnt from her mother, grandmother and aunts the names of shells and the times of the year she was most likely to find them. Shells used then and still are “starries, buttonies, couries, conks, and pennywinkles”. Twenty six years earlier, in 1910, Timbery’s great grandmother, “Queen” Emma Timbery’s shellworked objects were displayed in England in an exhibition of Australian manufactures and according to the Australian Aborigines Advocate her work 'was almost fought for’ and 'large purchases were made by the Hon Mrs Schonberg Byng’.

From the age of seven Timbery began creating shellworked brooches, graduating soon after to shellworking cane baskets, picture frames, baby’s booties and harbour bridges made of fabric covered cardboard. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Timbery, together with her sister Rose, began selling her work at 'The Loop’ at La Perouse. The Loop was also the place where boomerang demonstrations were held each weekend and still are today. Until the mid-1990s, Timbery’s shellworks were sold only to weekend tourists to The Loop at La Perouse or through Laddie Timbery’s shop in Huskisson, Jervis Bay. For a time though in the 1950s and 1960s the shell-working women of La Perouse also secured a stall each year at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show.

In 1997 Timbery began exhibiting her shellworks away from the gaze of the tourist trade by entering them in contemporary art exhibitions, starting with her first exhibition, 'Djalarinji – Something that Belongs to Us’ curated by Tess Allas at the Manly Regional Gallery and Museum. Artist Judy Watson consulted with Timbery in 2000 about shellworking, using her knowledge and incorporating the shells that Timbery works with into her public art installation at the arrivals precinct of the Sydney International Airport. In 2002 the Sydney Opera House commissioned Timbery to create a shellworked Sydney Harbour Bridge, a Sydney Opera House and a Centrepoint Tower for its annual Message Sticks program and in 2003 Timbery again participated in the Message Sticks program, this time in a satellite exhibition, 'Messages from the Fringe’, held at the Birrung Gallery in Leichhardt.

In 2004 Timbery’s work was included in a touring exhibition titled 'Terra Alterius: Land of Another’ staged by the Ivan Dougherty Gallery at the College of Fine Arts in Paddington. Early in 2005, 95 years after Queen Emma’s London exhibition and 68 years after she began collecting shells, Timbery submitted two blue shellworked Sydney Harbour Bridges into the first Parliament of NSW Indigenous Art Prize. Timbery went on to win this inaugural prize in August 2005, with the judges describing her work in the accompanying catalogue as “celebrating a contemporary icon of NSW in the traditional shellwork style associated with the La Perouse community that figures so prominently in our Indigenous history”. In late 2006 the Commonwealth Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA) used the Blue Shellworked Harbour Bridge, 2005 image for a 2007 Aboriginal arts calendar aimed at promoting the Indigenous department within FaCSIA.

ABC TV produced a documentary on Timbery titled, 'She Sells Sea Shells’ in 2006/2007 for their 'Artists At Work’ program that went to air on the 10th April, 2007. This television show filmed Timbery working at her home in La Perouse and at her daughter’s home in Jervis Bay. Timbery remains working from her home at La Perouse creating shellworked booties, baskets and bridges. Her daugher Marilyn Russell is also a shellworker.

Allas, Tess Note:
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