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Budding artist recognised for talent

TAFE Queensland visual arts graduate Julya Hegarty is already making waves in the Sunshine Coast art community.

TAFE Queensland Diploma of Visual Arts (CUA51120) and Advanced Diploma of Visual Arts (CUA60720) graduate Julya Hegarty is already making waves in the Sunshine Coast art community, after taking out the 3D Excellence category of the 2022 Local Artists — Local Content Art Prize.

The ceramicist was awarded $2000 in prize money from Friends of the Caloundra Gallery, with her winning creation ‘Black Flower’ featured in a month-long exhibition at the Caloundra Regional Art Gallery.

Julya said she was grateful for the accolade, having entered with the sole goal of getting her work displayed to the public.

“I wasn’t expecting to win anything — I was just hoping to get a piece in the gallery and be a part of this cohort of incredible artists — so it was a huge shock to receive the call from the Sunshine Coast Council telling me I’d won the 3D component,” Julya said.

“It’s a massive achievement for me. It makes me feel like my work is worthwhile creating; it’s given me a huge confidence boost.

“I’ve always shied away from putting my work in public spaces. This was the first step towards allowing my work to be judged by my peers and the public, and it has been a huge step for me. I don’t think I could have achieved it without the guidance of my teachers at TAFE.”

Julya said she has always been passionate about the arts, initially enrolling in a Bachelor of Photography when she first finished school. But after deciding to travel and — upon her return — starting a family, Julya's creative career took a back seat.

After spending seven years working as a childcare assistant for a local early learning centre, Julya rediscovered her creativity with a passion for ceramics. Keen to explore her talent, Julya took six months of leave in order to work alongside Brisbane ceramic and mosaic artist Jane du Rand, assisting her with making large sections for a mosaic mural that had been commissioned for a travel agency in Sydney.

“Everything had started to settle in my life, so I decided to leap back into my passion and see where it took me,” Julya said.

“I was incredibly lucky to be able to take six months off to follow my passion, but when I went back to childcare, I found myself wanting to pursue a creative career.”

Julya took the plunge and completed the Diploma of Visual Arts (CUA51120) at TAFE Queensland’s Nambour campus in 2021, before continuing on with the Advanced Diploma of Visual Arts (CUA60720) in 2022.

“I have a passion for hand-building ceramics and transferring my ideas into sculptural form — pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with clay. It’s a medium that can be unforgiving at times,” Julya said.

“When I started the diploma, I had come from working with an artist with significant direction in her practice, but felt as though I had no direction in my own.

“I loved the open-ended expression of clay, but I wanted to gain direction and discover where my purpose lies, which the advanced diploma has really helped with.”

It was during her studies that Julya created her winning piece — a sculpture representing the burnt banksias left behind in the Peregian bushfires.

“I’m heavily inspired by the natural landscape and the importance of the banksia in Australian culture,” she said.

“The Sunshine Coast is such a hub for creative practise, and I feel through the creation of my art that I’m part of this community of amazing creative people.”

Julya has since left her job in childcare to pursue her career in the creative industries fulltime, and recently showcased a body of work as part of a group exhibition at Lantana Experimental Art Space and Gallery in June. She is also working towards starting her own exterior design business, creating purposeful sculptural pieces for garden spaces with a focus on using recycled clay.

Having rediscovered her passion for the arts, Julya now encourages others interested in creative careers to do the same.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people that came to TAFE Queensland’s CRE8 exhibition last year — many who wanted to know how to enter the course and what the process was like — and to them I say take the leap. TAFE is really approachable and their teachers are hands-on, easy to talk to and have wealth of knowledge,” Julya said.

“If you have a passion, you should definitely be following it. Going through this journey has made me grow as a person. The pandemic gave me the chance to take a step back from my normal life and reassess what I wanted to do — it gave me the opportunity to change direction.”

According to the National Skills Commission, the arts and recreation services industry is projected to grow by 10.1 per cent nationwide over the next five years, offering plenty of opportunities for budding creators like Julya.

Julia Hegarty artwork - Black Flower (2021)