Glass diorama, 'Little Known Facts', glass, designed and made by Tom Moore, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 2004
This glass diorama, titled 'Little known facts', was made by Adelaide artist, Tom Moore, for entry into the 2004 Ranamok Glass Prize that toured Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Port Macquarie, Mount Gambier, Adelaide and Wagga Wagga. Its blown and hot worked glass components represent some of the imaginary friends that have characterised Moore's work for the past ten years. A green 'Plantbird' balances upon a brown potato and blue balloon, signifying a strange, symbiotic relationship yet also parodying the more familiar glass animals and grapes that are household ornaments. The domes that cover his work resemble the bell jars that encase objects in natural history museums, while written descriptions of his work mimic scientific notes. This style is apparent in the catalogue that accompanied his 2004 exhibition, 'Make Friends with a Potato':
'There is now conclusive proof that plantbirds begin their existence as sprouts, indistinguishable from the small edible shrubs with whom they share their first soil-bound weeks. By the time the roots have been absorbed into the growing body of the plantbird, the outer appearance is usually completely birdlike┬? As yet sightless, the plantbird sprout will remain in close contact with an All Seeing Potato until its own first eyes have formed. The exact function and identity of the balloons is yet to be determined.' (Tom Moore, 2004)
Tom Moore graduated from the Canberra School of Art in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in glass. He has since received several local and international awards, and his work has entered Australian and international collections. He has been the Production Manager of the JamFactory glass workshop since 1999, as well as working at Blue Pony Studio in Adelaide since 2001.
Moore makes his dioramas from hot blown glass - a complex and lengthy process that requires the help of at least one assistant. He begins by extracting a small quantity of molten glass from the furnace and blowing it into a bubble through a long hollow tube. He gives mass to the bubble by returning to the furnace to add further dips or 'gathers' of molten glass, until there is enough to make the desired object. The dome in 'Little Known Facts' was made in this process through four big gathers from the furnace.
Rocks, birds, balloons, potatoes and other components of Moore's dioramas are made and assembled in a single day. Each piece is blown from molten glass and is kept warm in an oven until assembly. The completed parts are then fused together individually by heating and joining the connection points.
Smaller components, including eyes, leaves and branches are formed in advance and are re-heated at the beginning of the day. They are later attached to the larger components as necessary. Apart from planning, pre-fabrication and final grinding, the hot process takes approximately four hours of continuous work between two people.
Moore sources his coloured glass from Gaffer Glass in New Zealand. The clear glass is melted at JamFactory from raw materials (about 70% sand) that have been mixed in Victoria to a recipe developed by Gaffer. The potatoes are made with a thin layer of beige glass in the core which is covered with a gather of clear glass, blown to size and sprinkled with a mixture of coloured glass powder. The dents, eyes and finally the shrubs are then added.
The Ranamok Glass Prize was established in 1995 as an award for excellence and innovation in contemporary Australian and New Zealand studio glass. Ten years later, it has developed into a major event in the Australasian crafts calendar - 156 entries were submitted in 2004 and 40 were selected for the touring exhibition. The panel of expert judges for that year's prize included Robert Bell, Senior Curator of Australian and International Decorative Arts and Design at the National Gallery of Australia; Margot Osborne, an independent curator and writer and former gallery director of JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design in Adelaide; and Sue Walker, Director of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop who has been a member of various government arts committees.