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Black Box: Life, walls and houses

Wendy Johnson

We take a peek at the new exhibition at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre.

There are unsung heroes living among us in the suburbs of Canberra. One such hero is the remarkable Judi Elliott, a distinguished glass artist whose work is found in prestigious collections around the world and who has held more than 120 exhibitions throughout her career in no fewer than a dozen countries.

Judy Elliott

Judy Elliott

Judi, who was born in Armidal in the 1930s, works quietly in her Wanniassa studio, producing highly recognisable pieces in her signature style. You can see her latest work in her new solo exhibition—the first in many years—which has just opened at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre. It’s intriguing and well worth a look.

Black Box: Life, walls and houses is a metaphor for life. Judi’s three-dimensional, highly colourful glass houses reflect what we all experience during our lifetime—growing up, falling in love, getting educated, working and more.

As with most of her work, Judi was inspired by architecture, the work of architects and our special relationship with the built environment. She was also inspired by the Black Box, that famous and complex Aussie invention that records all data of a flight’s journey of life. The Black Box is represented by the black dots appearing in the glass houses Judi has built.

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Once Upon a Time 2, Once Upon a Time 3. Cast, cut and assembled glass, 19cm x 19cm, 19cm x 15cm. 2014. Image credit: Rob Little

Judi’s process of creating is unique. She starts by producing full-scale drawings of houses and then cuts individual pieces of glass to size from each one. Next she applies the technical glass style she has developed over the decades to cast, cut, fuse and assemble each house. No two are alike, as you’ll see in Black Box: Life, walls and houses.

“Judi experiments with the weight of the glass and different temperatures to distort and create movement. This process changes the glass dramatically,’ says Rachael Coghlan, CEO of Craft ACT. “Judi is a trail blazer who studied under Klaus Moje, considered by many to be the ‘grandfather of Australian studio glass’,” says Rachael. “She’s a dedicated and hard-working craft practitioner and an important part of Canberra’s thriving craft and design community.”

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Home at Last. Glass, 30cm x 18cm, 2014. Image credit – Rob Little

Judi was the first glass graduate from the Canberra School of Art (now Australian National University) Glass Workshop, graduating in 1984. She’s been an Accredited Professional Member of Craft ACT since 1999.

“Judi has a real passion for making and she still gets excited when she looks into the kiln,’ says Mel George, who curated this exhibition at Craft ACT as is an award-winning glass artist in her own right. ‘You’re never quite sure of what you’ll get from Judi’s work but it’s always amazing.”


Protective Wall 1, Protective Wall 2. Cast, cut and assembled glass, 65cm x 56cm, 65cm x 56cm, 2016. Image credit: Louis Grant.

Also on now at Craft ACT is Embracing Innovation Volume 6, an annual curated showcase which this year features 10 exhibits whose designers have linked innovation in various forms, such as technology, mathematics and engineering, to influence and create their craft and design work. International, national and local designers are showcased.

the essentials

What: Black Box: Life, walls and houses and Embracing Innovation Volume 6
When: Showing from now until 27 August
Where: Craft ACT, 180 London Circuit, Civic
Cost: Free to the public
Web: Some of Judi’s works are for sale on Craft ACT’s brand new website. Visit for more information.

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author