2012 Melbourne Design Awards

Key Dates

'In the Spirit' [DRAFT]

Image Credit : Zosia Fabijanska from Aparat photography



Project Overview

I have been on a journey, discovering the infinate possibilities within the discarded manufactured bottle. I began with the easily accessible beer stubby, washing, cutting and using heat to open it out to become 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 my new jewellery collection (launching Design Made Trade July 2012).

Currently I am focused on the spirit bottle. Cultural heritages are captured within intricate embossings, forms are dynamic and striking, colour is purposful and seductive. It has been important for me to take time to appreciate the ready-made and work with what exists.

I was naturally attracted to the dramatic form and lines of the Sambuca bottle, it screamed of elegance. I worked to create a set, attempting to rekindle a culture of style our grandparents would appreciate.




Designer/Maker/Studio Director: Ruth Allen

Allen is a glassblower with more than 20 years experience her profession is expensive and naturally taxing on the environment. In recent years she has found it increasingly difficult to justify her practice. Conscious of the environmental demise of our planet Allen decided to change her direction, last year she started working with existing manufactured bottles, transforming them using traditional hot glass techniques into something new, re-usable and inspiring.

Project Brief

'In the Spirit' is a table setting including vase, jug and 6 x drinking tumblers. The set was created as a direct response to the actual Sambuca bottle.

The bottle's tall, conical nature lends itself to the practicality of being a jug. When filled with a delicious substance the neck is easy to grip and pour with control from the detailed spout. Alongside the jug stands the vase, also embracing practicality with a poportioned opening large enough for an elegant bouquet. Both are clear so that the contents can be seen and appreciated before consuming.

The drinking glasses are possibly the most desirable component to use, they are cut low in the form and include the unique angular facets of the bottle. The majority of weight settles at the bottom of the bottle making the glasses substantial and luxurious to hold. The slight curve of the lip directs the liquid easily to the mouth as well as representing an important subtelty to the aesthetic, you know it has been moved and altered.

Together all components to the set present a stylish alternative to 'drinks' and the ritual of sharing.

Project Need

My business is based on the reclamation of rubbish.
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. Through heat I fire polish the cut rim making it rounded and ultimately smooth and pleasant to drink from.

Due to the extensive heating process the glass is tempered becoming much stronger than in its original manufactured state, enabling it to withstand hot liquids, the dishwasher experience and often being dropped on the floor.

There is great wealth in re-cycling, re-using and reclaiming. I believe this is what 'we' as public want. It is now time for the human community to live with objects that reflect our consciousness. I know that I feel great when drinking from a recycled bottle, 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.

Design Challenge

The manufactured bottle is not made with any consistancy. Bottles are made quickly and by machine so the material is often uneven. Where there are embossings on the bottle extra material is required to fill the mould making another portion of the bottle thinner than the rest. All of these factors cause unpredictable behaviour once heated. I enjoy the nuances of form during this process and attempt to work with these characteristics to make the product unique.

All equipment is specialised and needs to be custom built, my current heating chamber is made from an old keg, it is samll in scale and not appropriate for the length of the Sambuca bottle. For this set I needed my assistant to torch the base of the pieces during the making process to ensure the work was a consistant temperature, fortunately these heart throb moments were rewarded.

I have since built larger equipment and are patiently awaiting the day when we are connected to mains gas (due in July 2012), when this occurs my business will embrace an entire new capacity.


The manufactured bottles I reclaim have been collected and sourced from local bars, restaurants, cafe's and in house parties. All bottles transformed would otherwise have been destined for land fill.

I am conscious of water usage, I have a custom built soaking tub (bath tub on wheels), under the tub are two burners that allow me to heat the water when necessary, rather than constantly using hot water from the tap, I use the same soaking water for at least three loads (approx 6oo spirit bottles).

When packaging my product I choose to wrap it in newspaper and freight the works in used collected boxes from mega stores such as Bunnings, Coles and my local fruit shop.

This award recognises a component or overall product. Consideration given to aspects that relate to human usage, aesthetics, selection of components and materials, and the resolution of assembly, manufacturing and the overall function.
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