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Sky high: Huddersfield artist Joy hits the heights with massive mural

13-storey artwork matches height of Statue of Liberty (almost)

The tallest mural in the UK, 'Athena Rising', painted by Huddersfield street artist Joy Gilleard and partner Hayley Garner, aka duo Nomad Clan. (PIC: Bokehgo)

Artist Joy Gilleard is on top of the world.

She and partner Hayley Garner have just put the finishing touches to the biggest commission of their career: a 13-storey rendition of an owl that adorns the side of a building in Leeds city centre.

The epic piece, which stretches 42m towards the skies, is almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty. What’s more it’s the biggest artwork of its kind in this country making Joy and Hayley the UK’s reigning muralist queens.

Joy, 34, who was born in Marsh and studied art at Huddersfield New College, and Hayley, also 34, from Rochdale, are together known as Nomad Clan. Over the past few years the duo have steadily acquired a reputation at home and abroad for striking street art.

But, says Joy, the giant mural on Network Rail’s Platform building, commissioned as part of street art project ‘A City Less Grey’, represents their biggest challenge to date.

She said: “We wanted to create something monumental, something that people would make a pilgrimage to see.

“We specialise in this but to do something in West Yorkshire on that scale is unbelievable. It really does have a ‘WOW!’ factor. It’s massive.”

Joy and Hayley were first asked to deliver artwork measuring just 9m by 3m but after showcasing their other work in cities like Manchester and Liverpool they were given the plum job: all 137ft of it.

Giant mural artists Joy Gilleard and Hayley Garner in their studio (PIC: Bokehgo)

The two women put together 17 concepts to find an appropriate theme. The final design, says Joy, was “quite a slog of work” that involved 16 eight-hour days on a hoist in all kinds of weather.

“We got a mix of weather,” she said. “During the first week it rained. The second week was baking hot! It was unbearable. It was also too windy to work on some days.

“Working on this has been a rollercoaster and a privilege. There is nothing else like it.”

Joy’s parents Lesley and Dirk still live in Holmfirth and their reaction has been heartwarming.

“My family are buzzing,” said Joy. “They know our art could be there for a very long time. It’s a legacy; it’s nice to leave something there.”

Joy and Hayley are booked solid for the rest of year, working in Berlin, Eindhoven, Sweden and in Bristol where they are to headline next month’s street art and graffiti event Upfest.

“We’re always looking for the next challenge,” Joy added. “Our end goal is to keep doing what we are doing.”

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