Glow Your Own Way

Dylan Toymaker and lighting as art

Some artists sculpt, others paint, Dylan Toymaker creates with light. What started as repurposing industrial materials and incorporating the LED lights of old electronics, has evolved into a career of creating atmosphere with his art.

The past two decades of technological advancements in LED lighting have played a significant role in his growth as an artist. “The capacity of LEDs to do interesting things just kept exploding,” he explains. “When the first blue LEDs came out, it was a huge deal, it was mind blowing.”

Dylan Toymaker

It was that introduction of LED lighting in the early 2000s that pushed Toymaker to shift from incorporating lights in his sculptures of fantastical creatures, to begin considering more ambient lighting as an artform. Having worked at festivals he noticed the gap in nighttime illumination. His earliest lighting creations utilized supplies like milk jugs and garden solar lights, today he is much more intentional with his choice of materials, considering not only the environmental conditions the piece will be required to endure, but the standards set forth by the Canadian Standards Association that all lights and electronics must meet, something he hadn’t worried about until 2017/2018.

“That created an enormous research project,” he says. “I had to learn a lot about electrical. It was very frustrating. I absolutely contemplated quitting.” Fortunately, Toymaker didn’t let the red tape stop him from continuing to create.

His work has been featured throughout the province at various festivals and even at the Canada Winter Games. From a towering “Ghost Pipe” featured at the 2021 Kaleido festival constructed with HVAC pipes and coloured lighting, to a spinning mobile made from bicycle wheels at the 2021 Jasper Dark Sky festival, Toymaker’s contributions to the scenic lighting of local events is hard to miss.

Working with a medium that contributes so much to the overall success of an event is not something Toymaker takes lightly. “When I want to light up things, I have to be very conscious about what else is going on with light around it,” he explains. “I’m responsible for what people require light for.”

Toymaker is also a recipient of the 2022 Edmonton Artists Trust Fund (EATF). The EATF was established in 1997 with the objective of investing in artists living and working in the greater Edmonton area. A joint venture between the Edmonton Arts Council and the Edmonton Community Foundation, recipients are nominated for their work in areas including literature, music, theatre, visual arts, dance, and filmmaking. The $15,000 trust award is intended to support artists with both their living and working expenses.

Toymaker says the money will give him a chance to recuperate after a busy winter season. In the meantime, he is working to upgrade his 3D design set up and advance his skillset.

To celebrate the 25th year of the EATF awards, in 2023 there will be 25 awards of $15,000 each.

Please note the change in deadline to August 1, 2023. Get your nominations in ASAP!

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