The ANU School of Art and Design was commissioned to design glass trophies for the prestigious Australian of the Year awards, as Ross Peake reports.
I would describe the trophy as … capturing the sky and space that Australia has, the unique facets of our country and it being a confident country.
The project is a golden opportunity for Nyx Mathews, a third year gold and silversmithing student, who is taking electives in the discipline of glass.
She was brought into the cross-disciplinary project to work on a mould for the trophy because of her experience in fine detail work.
“It’s good to get practice doing the cold working in glass, it’s building skills and it looks great on my resume,” she says.
As well as the trophy, the commission from the National Australia Day Council includes School of Music students composing three new pieces of music to be used at the national ceremony in January.
The involvement of both Schools allows the University to promote itself as the singular choice for art and music study in Australia.
Head of the Glass Workshop Richard Whiteley says staff and students wanted to create a design that was bold, confident and innovative.
“We also wanted something we could produce reliably that would allow the students the opportunity to learn high-end glass working skills but not be so difficult that it made the manufacturing process cumbersome, because we were on a reasonably tight lead time,” he says.
“Cast and polished glass is a beautiful medium, however it is a slow process.
“We had to design something that would not take 40 or 50 hours a piece – we just didn't have that window and there wasn't the budget for it – but we also wanted to make something that was unique.
“The primary design decision was around the thematic idea and what we keep coming back to was Australia being a multifaceted society, a confident, modern contemporary society, and we felt creating facets within the work was a way to symbolise that.”
The blue colour for the trophy was chosen to symbolise the sky.
“I would describe the trophy as reflecting the values we went in with, which was this sense of capturing the sky and space that Australia has, the unique facets of our country and it being a confident country,” Whiteley says.
“It's absolutely a group design and I feel the staff and students equally had a hand in it. There was also a lot of discussion with the students, senior students in particular, about the process.”
Once the design of the trophy was settled, he prepared drawings to capture the concept.
At the ANU Makerspace, Ella Sayers modelled the sketch on her computer for a 3D-print of the prototype to be made.
“This process allows the design to be changed quickly, with a 48-hour turn around,” she says.
“It is much harder to work precisely with a wire cutter and then hard to make adjustments, whereas we just change some numbers.”
Whiteley says the Makerspace facility allowed the team to make adjustments ‘on the fly’.
Dr John Debs from the ANU Research School of Physics & Engineering says he set up Makerspace as an interdisciplinary community to infuse the arts and science, and promote hands-on learning.
Richard Whiteley says firing each batch of ingots in the kiln to make the glass trophies takes about a week.
“Once they come out of the kiln, we’ve got a blank and then we start to carve it and shave it and bring back the polish on the surfaces; each one takes about 10 hours of polishing,” he says.
“The ANU School of Art and Design is a very unique art school – it continues to offer a diverse range of disciplines across visual art, craft and design.
“The facilities here are excellent and we have range of different analogue and digital tools to help us with this process – a lot of the work on this project was done by hand.”
Whiteley says the students and staff are delighted with the final design.
“It’s something that we’re all very proud to be involved in. There’s going to be a number of significant Australians who are recognised for this award and we’re very privileged to have participated in a small part of that ceremony.”
Head of ANU School of Music and award-winning film composer Professor Ken Lampl composed the fanfare and musical theme which will be played at the televised 2018 national announcement.
“I wanted to compose something that would capture the profound honour of the award and inspire leadership in a way that was uniquely Australian,” he said.