The Power of Two

It was a challenge set between two mates that sparked the idea for Juet Sculpture, an artistic collaboration between Martin Judd and Michael Hyett from the Dandenong Ranges. On a summer holiday with their families in 2008 was when they decided they needed a creative outlet in their lives. Both schoolteachers, the pair decided to make a sculpture and put it on ebay with a starting bid of $30. “We got back from holidays and went to the junk yards, made a sculpture, put it on ebay and got it up to $130 and we thought this is alright, let’s do another one,” said Mike. They had so much fun creating the first sculpture they decided to make a new sculpture every week for a year.

The constant practice meant that the men were constantly learning new things and developing their skill set. “Initially we didn’t call it sculpting, we just made stuff, and people seemed to enjoy it and wanted us to make more, and it’s just gone from one step to another,” said Marty. Having no sculpting experience meant they were not limited as they had no expectations and were free to be as creative as they wanted to be. When watching Marty and Mike interact it is obvious that they have been friends for a long time, twenty years in fact. They have parallel lifestyles but their work styles contrast. Mike joked that Marty is the more particular of the two. “Marty’s craftsmanship is a lot higher, he is much more the craftsmen.” Mike is more creative and it is the contrast that makes the partnership work so well. “That’s part of the collaboration…quite often I’ll be making something thinking that it has to be symmetrical, but then I’ll hear Mike in my head going, ‘Why don’t you try that a little off centre?’ and that can be a point of difference, and so it’s challenging ideas between us which works well.” Mike echoed the sentiment, “Marty will do something with a piece of material and I think that’s great, I never would have though of that.” Clearly inspired by each other, their primary source of inspiration comes from the materials they use. It is the history behind each item of material that makes the final product so special. Marty pointed to a sculpture in his living room, “That piece down there was made from tools from both my dad and my grandpa so it’s three generations, and it uses the tent poles we used when we went camping as a family. So it’s that kind of thing you pass from one generation to the next.” Using only recycled material is incredibly important to the overall Juet philosophy. The duo take great pleasure in turning things that are deemed worthless into something meaningful.

The decision to use recycled material is a statement against the commercial nature of the modern world. “You can go to Bunnings and buy a sculpture but it doesn’t have the history and the story that using found materials does. So it’s kind of the opposite of going to a commercial venture and buying a sculpture off the shelf.” Often Marty and Mike will receive phone calls from friends and family offering them their ‘junk’. At other times pieces will just turn up in their lives, and they joke that it is dangerous following them around during hard rubbish collection. When creating a sculpture they often have no set idea and just allow the creative process to take its own path. Quite often this means that the initial idea will go through several evolutions.

“I’d say that’s probably the most fun when you don’t know what is going to come out at the end and you get a nice surprise,” said Marty. Mike explained that the creative process is, “almost non thinking at the very beginning, and then an idea will come through, then a shape, then a feeling will come through and then you have to switch your mind again…and you say ‘Well how am I going to make this stand up or hold together?’ “ Marty’s backyard gallery in Upwey houses a number of Juet sculptures. As we wander through the yard it emerges that each sculpture has a different story behind it, and each is made from all manner of materials including timber, steel, rocks, pipe, farming equipment and even old patio heaters. It is clear that their work resonates in a natural environment. Mike stopped at one particular sculpture that resembled a man guarding his post. After he completed the sculpture he sat down and wrote a poem about it. “It’s about a man holding onto his values even though the world is passing him by so he’s standing like an old farmer by the post. The world moves on but we hold onto our values.” Mike tries to write a poem for each piece to allow people to connect with the sculptures in another way.

The poems complete the overall process and signify the conclusion of each piece. Marty pointed out a sculpture of a man balancing three houses, “This one was trying to encapsulate my life, it’s like a little man performing a balancing act keeping all these things in the air.” The sculptures often evoke a range of emotions for people who view them, “there are some people that cry, it might not be anything that we’ve tried to express but they get their own feeling from it and it might connect with something that’s really important in their life,” Mike said. It is this interaction that gives the pair the greatest sense of accomplishment. When asked about their hopes for the future they both laughed and Mike responded, “we just make it up as we go along, don’t we Marty?” While they may not be entirely certain about what the future for the collaboration holds, it is clear that their friendship will remain firm. “It’s that idea of teamwork and giving more than you get in a partnership. You accept each others mistakes and through that they’ll accept yours. It’s a good friendship. If we didn’t do the sculpting and we still had a friendship that would be great,” said Mike.

 Words Karlie Italia Photographs Adele Van Es

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