Toowoomba artist Joy Heylen is riding a wave of success after being announced as this year’s Neumann Family SWELL Sculpture Award winner at this year’s SWELL Sculpture Festival on the Gold Coast.

The South African born artist likes to be kept busy by being involved in local community projects such as the Russell Street Refresh Program, and running a successful company alongside her husband. In 2002, Joy emigrated to New Zealand with her husband and young family, bringing with her 20 years experience as a hair dresser, as well as qualifications in fashion design and photography.  Joy says that the “start of an internal awakening” occurred while studying art and 3D design at The Learning Connexion in Wellington. Within her first year of study, Joy began selling her fine art paintings, and after realising her passion, decided to become a full time artist.

In 2007, Joy and her family jumped at an opportunity to live in Australia, now residing in the Darling Downs. The couple have spent the past five years building their engineering art company, which offers creative solutions to major shopping centres. The company, Urban Visual Art & Sculpture  has found success both nationally and internationally.

Joy describes her recent win at Currumbin’s international sculpture competition SWELL for her three-metre-wide crab created from steel as “momentous and unreal”. “I am thankful for the acknowledgment of our creation. I also learnt so much from winning a major scale competition and by losing others,” she said.

In one word, what inspires Joy? Passion. “Sculpting for me is a gift, and as a multi-disciplinary sculptor, I come across a multitude of diverse jobs and challenges. As an emerging sculptor, I have so much to learn – this excites me,” she said. Joy shows no sign of stopping when it comes to growing as an artist. In addition to gaining a number of qualifications, Joy is continuously teaching herself new skills, and continuing to take advantage of further learning opportunities.

“I am a self-taught sculptor. I create a fusion between old and new age technologies. All of my work has a common organic edge to it, which means you distort the intrinsic shape of steel. I utilise laser cutting in components of my work, and most of my large scale pieces are CAD designed. As we run a fully functional engineering workshop, I learnt how to weld and use heavy machinery safely at the tender age of 44, which has been an absolute revelation! It is almost the best part of my job. I spend hundreds of hours on research, developing each concept to the point of construction. I am about to embark on a degree in Visual Culture & Fine Arts at CurtinUni, in addition to my workload!”

Joy recently assisted shop owners and managers with transforming Russel Street into a vibrant, people-friendly destination. She says that she feels the program resulted in a notable improvement on the popular location. “The creative aspect culminated in me creating a Pop Up Park – which is similar to the U.S PARK(ing) Day.”

Atop her busy workload, Joy is working on her newest installment, Anatomy of an Artist, chronicling her journey as an artist.

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