Art, Design, Interviews
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Ruth Allen | Glass Sculptor

Ruth Allen, glass blower, at work

Ruth and co-worker, Andy, at work with the glass.
[Image courtesy of Beckon Media]

Melbourne-based glass artist, Ruth Allen, is so much more than a glass blower. She is an artist, a sculptor, a multi-media installation creator, an active member of community arts and education programs, a jewellery designer, and now a sustainable glass maker and lighting designer.

Her business, Sustainable Stubbies, upcycles pre-loved wine, beer and drinks bottles into ‘new’ tumblers, vases, carafes and the like. And they are divine! They are beautiful to touch and beautiful to look at. The colours are richer and the glass sturdier than the original glass because she uses traditional hot glass techniques.

Olive carafe and wine tumbler set by Ruth Allen

Olive carafe and wine tumbler set, with dimples for your thumb

“Due to the extensive heating process, the glass becomes much stronger than its original state, enabling it to withstand hot liquids and the dishwasher experience,” she explains.

Regular old bottles are transformed into unique, handcrafted pieces.

“I began with the easily accessible beer stubby, opening it out into the simplest of re-usable forms, the tumbler. I became inspired to use more of the bottle, cutting the tops off to make beads now glorified in the new jewellery collection.”

Ruth discovered the wonders of glass after just leaving high school and while she has had a varied career, has never deviated from glass as being her main creative medium. After graduating with a degree majoring in glass at the Canberra School of Art in 1993, she went travelling around Japan, the US, Europe and New Zealand and attended and conducted workshops, exhibited, and undertook residencies, specialising in Venetian glass techniques.

Settling in Auckland, New Zealand, she went on to co-direct a hot glass studio and glass art business, Gloria, which produced a wide range of high quality and unique blown glass forms for private commissions and galleries. In 2000, she moved back to Australia to complete a Master of Fine Arts (research) degree, majoring in Glass and Sculpture at Monash University in Melbourne. 

Her graduating exhibition, Environmental Stimulation 2006 , set the stage for more ambitious installations called the Synergetic Series. Nicknamed ‘Jane’, the exhibition featured more than 200 individual glass forms illuminated by projected light and accompanied by audio compositions. It was six years in the making, required two to four assistants to help her, and weighed close to 220kg. Amazing!  (You can read more about how it was made and see more images here).

Environmental Stimulation 2006, Ruth Allen

Jane | Environmental Stimulation, 2006

While Ruth still creates installations she is now focused on her latest sustainable venture “based on the reclamation of rubbish”. In 2010 she and her partner Josh, purchased a warehouse in Coburg North, Melbourne, from where she now reclaims and transforms pre-existing and pre-loved bottles. Called LOBE, the studio is fully equipped with all the tools and machinery she needs and even has a pizza oven for entertaining!

“I have been blowing glass for more than 20 years,” says Ruth.  “My profession is expensive and naturally taxing on the environment. In recent years I have found it increasingly difficult to justify my practice. I am conscious of the environmental demise of our planet … so started working with existing manufactured bottles.

“I collect, wash and cut found bottles. Using traditional hot glass techniques I manipulate each bottle individually taking care to work with the unique qualities of the chosen piece.”

Mixed Pendand Lighting by Ruth Allen

Pendant Lighting formed from various types of bottles. The glass has been sandblasted so the light is beautifully diffused.

“There is such a wealth in recycling, re-using and reclaiming,” she says. “I know that I feel great when drinking from a recycled stubby. It is not just a glass; it is a concept. A concept that I believe contributes to transforming the culture and conversation of our time.”

Sage words from a master glass blower! Thanks Ruth. 

And we loved her pieces so much we now stock some of them in the store.

Ruth Allen glass blower

You can see more of Ruth at work in her studio via  the wonderful photographs of Beckon Media

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