Glass is not quite the unforgiving and artistic fragile medium it might seem, says etcher Dominic Fondé. “It’s very contradictory. That’s I why I call this ‘the Glass Age’. It’s an endlessly useful material and you can virtually do anything with it. You can even put Pyrex on an open flame. Of course, a thin wine glass is fragile,” says the British artist, who lives in Kobe with his Japanese wife.
Fondé is in Hong Kong for the launch of three limited-edition pieces at Town House in the Prince’s Building in Central. Customers can order the pieces at any Town House. He says there are other limits to the material, recalling how he once etched a peacock on a decanter. The vibration of the drill on the glass set up a howling noise that nothing could dampen. Make a mistake and it’s there for good.
Fondé overcomes this limitation by practising sketching animals using a black pen on paper. It’s the closest he can get to using a drill on glass. He mostly draws birds from Kobe Animals and Plants Environmental College but has also drawn its tortoise Gorgeous George, who it was recently discovered is Gorgeous Carmelita.
Fondé took a degree in ceramics and glass and then worked as a glassblower before developing an interest in etching. A friend visited his workshop and he spontaneously etched a short story on a jug for her as a Christmas present. This prompted a return to college to take a master’s degree, where he exchanged etching lessons for glassblowing lessons with another student.
“I like telling stories. I used to write short science fiction stories,” says Fondé. He still does that but explains that etching is also an extension of storytelling for him. Many of his first etchings were lines of text, limited only by the size of the plate he was etching on, but gradually he moved onto etching animals and then other scenes on to glass. The artist, who says he could equally have studied painting, says: “I love looking at birds and the birds took over. There was not one eureka moment, it just happened by stealth.”
The Hong Kong pieces – 10 each of a plate, a vase and a decanter – show iconic images of Hong Kong. The plate shows Victoria Harbour. “I wanted to capture the excitement of the skyline and the way Hong Kong changes,” says Fondé. “There’s the skyline as it is now but when I was coming in from the airport I saw a bunch of new skyscrapers coming up. In five years’ time it might look significantly different.”
The vase depicts the Big Buddha at Ngong Ping on Lantau island, while the decanter shows a fishing junk. This was inspired not only by Hong Kong history but by the synth rock of French musician Jean Michel Jarre and a track called Fishing Junks at Sunset. Fondé likes the mix of modern and old.
Fondé’s engravings are on glassware by Nachtmann, a company owned by renowned wine glass manufacturers Riedel.
Fondé will be in the atrium of the K11 Art Mall on October 7th, between noon and 8pm, customizing glassware by etching customers’ requested names or messages on it.