Joel gives old farm tools new purposes

Joel Zimmermann, Sedan, with his latest masterpiece Oscar, which was created as a dedication to farmers in the Barossa Valley.
Joel Zimmermann, Sedan, with his latest masterpiece Oscar, which was created as a dedication to farmers in the Barossa Valley.

A young sculptor is turning broken, unwanted and rusted farming equipment into works of art, and winning awards for his creations at the same time.

From the backyard of his Sedan home, Joel Zimmermann has created eagles, horses, lions and lizards from a five-tonne scrap metal pile, with his work usually ending up in people’s yards.

His passion for creating sculptures began in an art class at school, where he created a whale from garbage in line with studies on rubbish in the ocean.

In the time since, he has won the South Australian Living Artists Festival’s Brighton Jetty Classic Sculpture young artists award in 2015 and 2016.

He also won the people’s choice award at the Brighton Jetty Classic Sculpture showcase in 2016.

“I used to get really hung up on the creation of the piece, being a perfectionist,” Joel said.

“But I’ve started to take a different approach where I create a central structure for the piece and layer outwards.

“I’ve realised the pieces don’t have to be exact, it doesn’t matter whether little bits are out of place, it adds character to what I’m creating.”

A sculpture in memory of Joel's grandfather's horse Major.

A sculpture in memory of Joel's grandfather's horse Major.

His masterpieces are created from pieces of scrap material from from strangers offering donations via his Facebook page or what local farmers offer up when their old machinery breaks.

Joel also buys whole pieces of machinery, scrapping them entirely into small pieces. Sometimes he looks at what he is creating and wanders through his scrap piles looking for the right piece.

Other times, he will pick up a piece of scrap and know exactly what it can be used for.

“I had some fingers off a header comb and when I looked at them I thought ‘yep, they are feathers’,” Joel said. “So I created a wedge-tailed eagle from that idea.”

But after six years of crafting sculptures, Joel said he still “dreads” the building process.

“Once I get about three quarters of the way through and can see it forming there’s a big sense of relief,” he said.

Each year Joel makes pieces for the SALA festival, but the vast majority of his sculptures are commission pieces.

Some of his latest work was for a resort on Kangaroo Island.

Joel's sculpture of a lion, which was entered in the SALA festival.

Joel's sculpture of a lion, which was entered in the SALA festival.

Sculpture honours past Barossa farmers

Oscar, the steel construction dedicated to the farmer, is Joel Zimmermann’s latest creation and entrant in this year’s Brighton Jetty Classic Sculpture showcase.

The 350-kilogram sculpture was crafted at Joel’s Sedan home, and is a dedication to farmers, particularly those in the Barossa Valley.

“Oscar focuses on the hard work that was put in by previous farmers, where everything was done by hand and horse,” he said.

Oscar took about 60 hours to complete and was named after Joel’s grandfather.

The sculpture is made primarily of scrap farm equipment, with a sprinkler head incorporated in one arm, some steel pipe for an axe handle and plough shears for cheeks.

“I know roughly where each individual piece has come from and what it is,” Joel said.

“For the smaller intricate pieces, I cut up smaller pieces and created bends – its a variety of little gears and pieces of pipe.”

Oscar followed up with the construction of two horse heads, which were in memory of Joel’s grandfather’s horse Major.