Constructing the Australian of the Year trophies from scratch is a delicate job, but the ANU Glass team certainly aren’t cracking under the pressure.

Hand-making 36 intricate glass sculptures is no easy task — but Australian National University (ANU) alumnus Louis Grant has taken it by the callipers.

A talented glass artist whose work can be seen in multiple shows across Australia, Grant has added lead fabricator for the Australian of the Year Awards to his already impressive resume. It’s an achievement he says he “didn’t have on his 2023 bingo card”.

“The awards have been a steep learning curve,” Grant says.

“I’ve been working as a full-time artist for the past two years, so doing over 30 of something is crazy. I’ve never made so much in such a short amount of time.

“And this is really high-end glassmaking — we’re basically creating mini-artworks with the amount of work which has gone into them.”

Louis Grant has returned to ANU to produce the Australian of the Year Awards. Photo: Yun Hu

Every fine detail, from the hint of colour that separates each category to the distinct Southern Cross markings, requires serious precision. But Grant says the months of hard work that have gone into creating this year’s awards are worth it.

“When you see the awards given out, they are glowing — there’s something sublime about that.

“I think they are great examples of why glass is so good. The blue represents the Australian sky that connects us all and the colour is so vibrant and beautiful. Then the back is this geometric surface which is matte, but then it has all these polished surfaces.

“Glass really is quite an amazing material — it just speaks for itself.”

The awards’ distinctive design incorporates different colours for each category. Photo: Yun Hu

The Australian of the Year awards were first made at the ANU Glass Workshop in 2017, where Project Manager and School of Art and Design Technical Officer Catherine Newton and a small team brought the design to life.

Aside from showcasing the craftsmanship of the ANU Glass Workshop, Newton says that making the awards offers unparalleled professional practice opportunities to students.

“Glass-making can be one of the lowest-paid professions,” Newton says.

“It’s also quite expensive — you put a lot of money into making your work to go an exhibition, and there’s a lot of pieces that come home with you.

“But the awards are one of the ways to make a sustainable career out of it. The program is showing the students that there are viable ways to sustain their practice.”

The trophy-making process provides ANU students with opportunities to put their craft into practice. Photo: Yun Hu

Beyond 36 trophies, Newton says it’s a legacy that she hopes to see handed over.

“The University is very lucky to snag Louis as the next lead fabricator of the awards,” she says.

“Next year, if students want to come and help work on the awards, they will able to take part as interns and learn these really valuable skills.

“It’s an honour to be given this responsibility. They’re the most significant awards in Australia, the most seen pieces of glass in the country and they’re made here at ANU.”

Top image: Australian of the Year Award. Photo: Yun Hu

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