Born in 1970 in the market town of Newcastle under Lyme in Staffordshire, it was pencils, paper and felt tip pens which were Joanne Panayi's first love and she spent much of her childhood scribbling away on cat drawings or designing Cinderella’s next stunning dress.  She was inspired greatly by the work of L.S Lowry and Beryl Cook and her local art shop in Newcastle was the most magical place to visit.  Music was Joanne's other passion, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Abba and many other 70s groups were favourites at this time, and she would sing into anything that resembled a microphone "praying that one day I would have a bottom as glorious as Agnetha’s" she recalls!

Life sadly took a tragic twist upon the death of her mother and, after finishing school and trying out many different jobs from McDonalds to pub work, Joanne took up sign writing and escaped with her brushes in 1994 to live in sunny Cyprus.  Working as a freelance artist, her job took on many different aspects from traditional signs to large scale murals, commercial art and portraits. She enjoyed the family orientated social gatherings and disco night life where people-watching became the perfect hobby.

In 2002 Joanne returned to Britain with her son Harry to take art work more seriously,  After two years at Stoke on Trent College she attended Staffordshire University to complete a Degree in 3D design craft.  "This firmly moved my work into the 3D arena and my multi-media sculptural works started to develop. I obtained a business grant through the university’s EFS scheme at the end of 2008, which funded me to set up working for myself, and helped fill some of the gaps in by business knowledge, of which there were many!"

As well as mixed media, fine metals and silver-smithing were another area which was to bring success and Joanne has awards from Goldsmiths for my design skills and the traditional techniques I use in making silverware.

"After the excitement of my first magazine and newspaper articles, my 'New Shoes' sculpture range won an award from GWIIN, the Global Women’s Innovators and Inventors Network, and I started the exciting journey to take my beautiful ladies and their gorgeous shoes from my work bench to gallery."

Joanne says "I’m very lucky that I take most of my inspiration from people as we’re surrounded by them!  I love the vast scope in the human character, there are so many different kinds I could never be bored.  I might be taken by a particular look, or a slight stance or movement that will make me pick up a pencil and document it. Relationships and emotion is also something that inspires me - much of my work always has a story behind it.

Using different media is also something that strongly influences my work. I really enjoy being able to move between using pencils, paint and clay, to using fine metals, woods and plastics. Each of the materials work in a completely different way, and the alchemy of manipulating them into my own ideas is quite magical, and sometimes quite messy!

Any idea I have starts out on pencil and paper, but with sculpture I tend to rapidly move into making it in clay, where I can spend many hours getting the pose I want to achieve just right, and creating the decadent shoes.

After the clay model is made, it is then cast into resin and hand finished, which takes many hours of sanding, and the application of colours and jewels to finish off. All in all, the “New Shoes” sculptures take a considerably long time to make, but well worth it when they’re done."

So what is a day in the life of Joanne Panayi like?  "Work is never the same, and my job changes from day to day, which suites my inquisitive nature perfectly. I’ve always had difficulty in sitting still!  After the daily start of getting my son off to school and buying the milk, I tend to work in two shifts in a day. From morning till school finishes, then from after Harry’s bedtime till usually quite late, although having the break of being “mum” in between the shifts is great - cooking tea, games of Connect 4 and practicing his dance moves helps me to refocus.

I work from home, and have a workshop at the back of my house, which helps me to utilise my hours the best. I’m far too impatient to spend time travelling to and from a rented workshop, although when I do go out, I travel a lot by public transport so I can people watch at my leisure.

Relaxing is usually spent spending time with my nearest and dearest. Love and laughter is hugely important, as is curling up with hot chocolate and our long suffering cat".  

Portfolio Fine Art is delighted to be part of Joanna's sparking future.   We have all fallen in love with her outrageous art and, of course, our brand new collection of her fabulous footwear!