The Lady and the Horse take shape in Hilker's studio
Jenny Hilker with the Lady in her Gracemere studio
30th Nov 2019
JENNY Hilker's hands are blistered and bloody from a 13-hour stint
on 'the Lady' who looms large in her custom studio on the outskirts
She has taken 90 kilos of clay to date, and has shaped it around
600 metres - that's two whole catering boxes - of alfoil, on her giant easel.
Jen said she doesn't let go a piece until it's just right, whether that means backing away for a spell or working through to the wee hours.
It's a far cry from her previous business enterprises which included pet shops, aquariums, stock feed, hay farming and a florist.
"I never found running that kind of business particularly emotional,” she said. "Stressful, yes - with all the commitments, the buying, wages and bills - but you get much more attached to this kind of business and it's products.
"Just the other day, my husband caught me hugging the horse before I had to send him to Brisbane.”
The horse is a smaller sculpture whose sleek haunches bely Hilker's fascination with the musculature beneath her subject's surface. He has been shipped to Brisbane to be cast in bronze and also to be reverse moulded into silicon.
As I am self taught, it is hard to get advice on how to proceed, so I'm taking care to take my time and not mess things up.”
Her studio, which stands in a bamboo grove outside the family home she shares with her husband and two teenage daughters, has been designed to host masterclasses for up to eight people. The school side of things has been named SCULPT OUT LOUD.
Jen aims to pass on her growing knowledge and business prowess to other budding artists. She will advertise later this year for classes and their availability. She said the hardest thing about art is the stigma that artists make their pieces 'for the love of it'. "If you go into making art with the mentality you won't make money, then you won't,” she said.
"My business - the product and its development - is as much a work in progress as the pieces I sell.”
Jumping In With Both Feet
Jennifer Hilker shares her amazing story of making the decision to jump in with both feet to her art practice. Her leap was bold and brave but one I absolutely applaud. So great to hear that CQ Shopfront has helped you to focus your business Jen!
How did you get started in your art practice?
Well as corny as it sounds it was sort of a universal pull. I had previously owned several small businesses in the local area, but never felt fulfilled or satisfied. So I had a good hard look at my life and decided I should do what I feel compelled to do. I had always painted or practiced some form of art in my spare time (which there wasn't a lot of), but until I took a change of life seriously and stopped to ask myself, what do I truly want my life to look like, that I knew I wanted to play with clay.
I sold my businesses not knowing how I was going to tackle this, but regardless I knew there had to be something more for me, I purchased some tools and some clay and it is strange to try and explain, but it felt like home, it felt comfortable and I didn't want to stop. I fought it for a while thinking what a crazy notion, maybe I need to be realistic and more responsible with my life, but I knew somewhere inside me there was no turning back.
So I took a huge risk, delved into my savings and built a studio on my farm at Gracemere, even though I was still in the early stages of understanding clays and all of the knowledge that was required to pull this off, I somehow just knew that this was going to work out. I have since been working hard and developing my skills while enjoying the preparation of sculpted pieces ready for sale. I am also planning sculpting workshops that I will run from my Sculpt Out Loud Studio, in the coming months.
What are the key inspirations behind your work?
I have found the experience in my studio over the last year, very therapeutic. Having had a rather difficult childhood, I definitely revisited the past and learnt to heal from it. In the process, without even thinking about it, I subconsciously started creating rural based pieces, mainly horses, which were a very big part of my life growing up and the years with them brought me the most happiness. Maybe that is why I feel so passionate now about giving them life. I love the study of their muscles and the way the bodies flow and naturally move. Likewise I also study and enjoy the challenge of the human form, it can be quite complicated and sometimes exhausting but so rewarding to see the sculptures develop and gain personality.
What is the business model and products that you are aiming to develop through participating in the CQ Shopfront project?
The CQ Shopfront program helped me gain focus on my target demographic. I have gained a better sense of planning my time and setting short and long term goals. I also realised the importance of a business model and business plan which is equally important in an arts business. I am working towards a range of different priced items according to the final process and finished materials. I will have finished pieces in a variety of materials, which include Bronze, Aluminium as well as cold cast in Resin with bronze finishes.
What dreams do you have for the future of your practice?
With a background in business, my main focus is to build the business of my Art as a commercial enterprise. Selling and meeting my targets are very important to me, however I also have a desire to build the sculpting community in Central Queensland. Starting with workshops in the purpose built studio, I love to teach, having taught dressage and kids riding in the past. I have built the studio purposely for classes and I would love to share the art of sculpture as master classes. Hopefully expanding the community's involvement and love of sculpting. Starting at SCULPT OUT LOUD studio.