Snowglobes: a recipe for magic Reply

by Krista Sturday

A recipe for magic: the alligator snow globe. Image by Horizontal Integration used under Creative Commons licence

A recipe for magic: the alligator snow globe. Image by Horizontal Integration used under Creative Commons licence

The Sydney Fringe Festival has always encouraged people to get involved in its events as members of the audience. But this year it invited people to create something of their own with its snow globe making crafternoons.

Kerri Glasscock, Director of the Festival, has a special recipe for snow globes, and her youngest daughter Daisy has perfected it ­– a yellow dinosaur, green cactus, pearl glitter, a “slurp of glycerol” in the water to stop the flakes sticking together, and super-fast drying glue so that the excitement does not wear off while waiting for it to dry.

The crafternoon sessions are held in The Campground in the ballroom of the old School of Arts in Newtown.  Previously used as a bar at past Festivals, the ballroom is being used this year as a venue for emerging performance artists as well as an art-making venue between performances. Ms Glasscock says, “It is a place young artists can be nurtured where there are no expectations from the audience.”

Photographer Kim Rudner, who attends the Festival every year, likes snow globes because “they are a little microcosm of a snow-land trapped in a dome that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and child-like. It’s magic.” Fellow festival fan Sophie Penhallow agrees. “It reminds you of a simpler time and place. It sparks the imagination and wonder you had as a child.”

Collectors of snow globes may be divided into two distinct categories ­– those who collect pre-1940s glass globes, and those who like the kitsch plastic post-1950s souvenir style globes. American collector Nancy McMichael, who started collecting plastic souvenir snow globes over 19 years ago, wrote the book ’Snow Domes’ and is considered an expert on the topic. She recorded snow globes as first being seen at the Paris World Fair in 1878.

American writer, Swati Pandey, author of ‘How the snowglobe went global’, described how, at the turn of the century, Erwin Perzy, a Viennese medical instrument maker, was trying to make a brighter operating room bulb by filling a globe with water and white grit and shining light through it. While it didn’t work, it reminded Perzy of snow. At the request of a souvenir-maker friend, he put the Basilica of the Birth of the Virgin Mary below a glass globe which, when shaken, resembled a snowstorm. Perzy patented the ‘Glass Globe with Snow Effect’ in 1900, launched a business and, by 1908, won an award from the Austrian emperor, Franz Josef I. His company still churns out domes today.

While not officially royalty, the self-described Queen of Snow Globes, Leah Andrews, much prefers the glass globes.  She is not a collector, but a creator.  Five years ago she fell in love with one specific glass snow globe she saw in an episode of the television show ‘Sex and the City’.  In her pursuit of that particular globe, she discovered she had quite a talent for making unique snow globes, and now has a successful business making custom snow globes for people all over the world.

Most of Ms Andrews’ customers want their globes to contain their stories and memories for them to relive. She says, “When you look into one, you’re looking at all the detail, and I think you’re actually subconsciously being inside there. It’s just special.”

Ms Andrews says snow globes are not all just souvenirs and toys, but can be more unique and intricate.  Artists like Walter Martin and Paloma Munoz have snow globe installations in New York galleries where their snow globes have sold for upwards of $10,000.

They are not the only artists to use this medium. Australian artists Fiona Hall and Sherna Teperson have also held snow globe exhibitions in galleries over the past 10 years. In Scotland, the Lighthouse gallery commissioned 20 artists to create contemporary snow globes for its Winter 2003 show.

Artists are not the only ones making snow globes more fashionable. Luxury brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton have used snow globes for promotional and commemorative occasions.

Snow globe making at this year’s Fringe Festival came about because Ms Glasscock thought it was “just such a clever idea. So simple and effective and everyone can do it.”  The magic of snow globes appears to be held by adults being transported back to their childhood and simpler times.  But when you ask a child, like Ms Glasscock’s eldest daughter Edie, why she likes snow globes, the answer is simple: “because it looks like it’s snowing!


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