• detail of piece in _Pleiades_, 2004, photographer -  Cathy Keys

    detail of piece in Pleiades, 2004, photographer – Cathy Keys

  • my shadow, Warlpiri country, Tanami Desert, Northern Territory, 1998, photographer -  Cathy Keys

    my shadow, Warlpiri country, Tanami Desert, Northern Territory, 1998, photographer – Cathy Keys

  • design drawings for _unleashed_, sketchbook, 2004 - Cathy Keys

    design drawings for unleashed, sketchbook, 2004 – Cathy Keys

Unleashed Artist Statement

Inspired by the Pleiades star cluster (or Seven Sisters), this series of ceramic vessels was designed to express the constellation’s role as a container of significant cultural belief. The vessels explore Pleiades’ role in linking peoples across time and the physical trajectory through our sky.

pleiades star cluster

The Pleiades Star Cluster (or Seven Sisters) can be seen in a dark sky with the naked eye as seven stars. The cluster moves annually across the Australian sky from east to west, disappearing from the night sky during winter months.


Aboriginal women elders living in Yuendumu a Warlpiri community (Central Australia) explained to me some cultural beliefs linking these stars to the Dreamtime. The Pleiades was known as the Seven Sisters or Napaljarri-Warnu. Large individual stars within a cluster were known as big sisters and smaller stars, younger sisters. The appearance or disappearance of a significant star (‘sister’) was often an important signifier of changing seasonal conditions.

seven sisters

Pre-historians have noted that the Pleiades was known as the Seven Sisters by indigenous people in North America, Siberia and Australia 1 and suggested that not only the actual observation of the Pleiades but also the descriptive name of these stars as the Seven Sisters may date back more than 40,000 years to the Upper Paleolithic period.2

cultural beliefs

This connection between cultures and their origin, history and beliefs, intrigue me and underlie this ceramic study. The Pleiades cluster of vessels were designed to express their containment of significant cultural beliefs and to connect people across generations and cultural diversity.

read more

Kellee Uhr, 2005, ‘Touch – A laying of hands and heart in emerging ceramics’, in The Journal of Australian Ceramics, vol44, no3, pp44-45.


1. Boris A Frolov, 1981. ‘On Astronomy in the Stone Age’, Current Anthropology vol. 22 no. 5,p585.
2. Richard Rudgley, 1999. Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age, Arrow Books, London.