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The Construction Specialist Turned Conceptual Sculptor!

Studio Visit

Hailey Atkins is a sculptor, who also happens to be a roofing specialist. The practical side of her mechanical brain is balanced by a boundless need to constantly create, and these dual passions work in harmony rather than competition when it comes to her art.

The Brisbane-based artist uses her building background to create abstract sculptures, allowing each field to inform the other – even down to the materials.

27th November, 2020

Some sculptures in situ. Photo – Joe Ruckli.

She uses industrial materials like concrete, paper, plaster, timber, joint finisher and even building debris to create her sculptures. Photo – Joe Ruckli.

Hailey convinced her partner to let her have the biggest room in their house (plus the adjoining sunroom!) as her home studio. Photo – Joe Ruckli.

An example of the diversity of Hailey’s forms: on the left, a tall, spindly construction, and on the right, a mounted figurine! Photo – Sarah Poulgrain.

A crowd of ever-different, small-scale sculptures. Photo – Sarah Poulgrain.

From left: Make your own sun. Photo – Hailey Atkins. Right: Soup Opera . Photo – Bridie Gillman for Stable Artspace.

Sasha Gattermayr
Friday 27th November 2020

‘I think the beauty zone is the place where objects go when they’re no longer able to pull at your gut or make you go “huh?”’ – Hailey Atkins

At pretty much the exact time Hailey Atkins developed an interest in art, she also became a construction specialist. Her love for creating art and an interest in designing homes blossomed simultaneously, and Hailey went straight into drafting and building design from high school. 

Despite loving that job, the creative impulse would not subside, and Hailey ended up studying a Bachelor of Fine Art at Queensland College of Art while she continued her work at a roofing company. ‘Initially I had planned to major in printmaking, but I ended up thriving in the sculpture department where the possibilities seemed endless,’ she says. ‘The boundaries are very flimsy and so there’s a lot of room to play.’

Hailey uses industrial materials such as concrete, plaster, joint finisher, timber, steel to create her structures, as well everyday materials like paper and textiles or discarded construction debris. These are mulched, squeezed and moulded into her sculptural forms, which take the shape of anything from hand-cobbled trophies to freestanding abstract vessels. 

Rather than a thematic connective thread, common materials and a handbuilt texture give Hailey’s pieces their distinctive look. Apart from this, no two works are similar.

Testing the limits of materials is exactly what was lacking for Hailey in the rigid nature of industrial construction. In sculpture, there is room for experimentation – and for Hailey’s odd and wobbly creations, the point isn’t necessarily to make something beautiful.

‘I think the beauty zone is the place where objects go when they’re no longer able to pull at your gut or make you go “huh?”’ she explains. ‘It’s easy to get sucked into finding the perfect balance, but I think that it’s when things are just a little bit off, maybe even in a way that I can’t pinpoint, that my work is at its best.’ 

‘I don’t think the urge to make is ever going to disappear. It’s taught me how to think differently about the world, taken me interstate and overseas, and introduced me to some of my greatest friends,’ she says. ‘I think I’ve still got a lot of loosening up to do, but the older I get, the less afraid I am to make mistakes, and that’s when things start to get exciting.’

Hailey’s work will be exhibited as part of ‘Sunny Side Up’, an outdoor public art exhibition that explores Brisbane through the art of its emerging local creatives. The installed works will be scattered throughout the city’s CBD from November 30th – April 18th, 2021. See more here.

Learn more about Hailey here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

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