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Essence of Cloud is a multi-faceted project comprised mainly of Glass objects and text but also carved wood, mixed media, watercolour sketches, performance, music, scent and animation. 

It represents a major turning point for Mark  as a long-form body of work which delves deeply into narrative and character development through detailed articulation of an imagined family history which at some points intersects with the real. Serious ideas are imbedded in its predominantly whimsical terrain. Mark wishes to thank the many generous people who have collaborated and assisted in the Essence of Cloud project.


Produced during the early stages of writing, this work was the first actual illustration for Essence of Cloud.  Dario, is seen here attempting to extract cloud essence from a mountain top using a special Cloud-syphoning apparatus. A lonely Cloud Goddess looks down in bemusement. (drawn from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).


Apparatus for the Extraction of Cloud Essence (Misnamed the Trick Glass).

Mark Eliott 2016.

Flame-worked and sandblasted borosilicate glass.

Courtesy of the Corning Glass Museum, New York

Photo: Richard Weinstein.



She left and returned from her bedroom a moment later, blowing the dust off an ancient wooden box with a strange carving on its lid.

Claude opened it and peered at the negative space in the faded velvet lining which, by its contours, still spoke of the odd-shaped object it had once housed. For the first time he noticed that this cavity was the same shape as the vessel depicted on the lid.

“What is so important about this empty box, Grandma? And why has it been handed all the way down to me?”

“Hmm … I wonder.” Her tone was mysterious.

(extract from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).


Box for the missing Spanish Trick Glass, circa 1586

Mark Eliott 2018

Made with the assistance of Shane Weichnick

Recycled oak, carved, painted and aged. velvet, found objects and mixed media.



“Grandma, you’re so full of mysteries, it drives me mad.” Claude carefully pulled out something more, a flattened scroll made from a papery, skin-like material.

“What on earth are these strange words and diagrams?” Unrolling it gingerly, he tried to read the text, handwritten in some unfamiliar language. “It’s so scrawled and blurry, some of the symbols look kind of alchemical. I wonder if even an expert could translate it.”

(extract from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).

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The Hidden scroll of Darach (Dario) McFoggarty circa 1610

Made by Dion Cozic 2021

Based on a concept by Mark Eliott

Digital and hand drawn artwork, aged cotton paper and ink.


“I will carry you, all the way.” Said Dario.

“No,” Sister Antia argued, then acquiesced. “Alright, if you must then take a sniff from my vial of tonic. It is empty but a faint smell remains, which will give you strength.” She reached down into her habit and drew what looked like a string of rosary beads from around her neck. It had a tiny vial of vidro attached to it. She lifted the stopper and passed it to him and in turn took a sniff before quickly closing it as if some genie might escape.

(extract from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).


Cloud Essence Vial

Mark Eliott 2018

Flameworked and blown borosilicate glass, mixed media



Glowing softly above the shelf was the cobwebbed stained-glass window with its figure of the Madonna, no, surely she was the goddess, standing on a mountain, on the side of which grew a craggy tree. And yes, instead of foliage it had seven white clouds just as in Claude’s dream. The goddess wore a halo and her eyelids were partially lowered over gentle, melancholy eyes. Next to her, standing like some whimsical mascot, was that incongruous-looking bird with a spoon-shaped bill like the one carved into the lid of Claude’s wooden box. Why did the whole picture have a quality that was somehow Asian? It reminded him of an image of Quan Yin, the goddess of compassion, he’d once seen in a Buddhist temple.

(extract from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).


Window from the Nunnery chapel circa 1530

Jeff Hamilton 2021,

assisted by Jo Bush and Willie Kloven.

Interpreted from a sketch by Mark Eliott

Frame made from recycled oak by Maximillian Whelan-Young and aged by Shane Wiechnik.



This condenser was ostensibly designed in the 1880s by professor McFoggarty and produced by his glassblowing cousin Ferdinand. Initially it was used for concentrating raw cloud essence into a more refined scent however, the professor also found it invaluable for researching the pacifying behaviours of the newly discovered Mystrion particles in relation to the tribal misbehaviours of the more war-like water molecules. Fortuitously, Vanessa the housekeeper discovered that crops of mustard cress sprouts could be grown in the drip trays, in order to supplement the professor’s meagre diet of ships biscuits and seagulls’ eggs.  This helped to ward off the scurvy during his extended journey on Lucy the floating cloud laboratory.

(drawn from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).

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Cloud Essence condenser circa 1880

Flame-sculpted, blown and sandblasted borosilicate glass, found objects and mixed media:

Glass sprouts made with the assistance of Simi Eliott and Anna May Kirk

Dimensions approx. 80cm H x 60cm W x 60cm D. 

Photo: Richard Weinstein

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Cloud Essence condenser circa 1880

Flame-sculpted, blown and sandblasted borosilicate glass, found objects and mixed media:

Glass sprouts made with the assistance of Simi Eliott and Anna May Kirk

Dimensions approx. 80cm H x 60cm W x 60cm D. 

Photo: Richard Weinstein


At rear left of the collection is my artists reinterpretation of the so called Spanish Trick Glass (the 500 year old original of which is at the Corning Museum), with a plunger inserted and fully equipped for its ‘true purpose’ as a cloud essence extractor.  I claim that it is an object of profound significance to humanity. At front left is a primitive early version of Cloud extractor circa 1530 – apparently unearthed during excavations of an old nunnery. At centre is the ancient oak box passed down to me as a mysterious family heirloom, still showing the negative space where the apparatus once sat.


This set was used by Vanessa Winthrop and Ferdinand McFoggarty in England and beyond as a tasting kit for the audience during their glass Cloud-blowing demonstrations. Everyone present was so delighted with the experience that invariably, every available bottle of essence was sold by the end of the performance, with orders taken for more. It was even rumoured that the Queen herself was interested in procuring a bottle. The funds raised both through tickets and sales of cloud essence went a considerable way towards paying off Professor Hamish McFoggarty’s debts, incurred while building the cloud laboratory.

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Essence of Cloud Essence Scent Archive circa 1880

Flame-sculpted, blown and sandblasted borosilicate glass bottle, shot glasses, scent strip vase, wood base and found object vials: Mark Eliott.

Location labels: Simi Eliott

Essence of Cloud scent and tonic according to location: Ainslie Walker

Dimensions approx. variable.

Photo: Richard Weinstein

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This chest is thought to have been used by Professor McFoggarty to lower full cloud essence bottles down from Lucy the Floating Cloud Laboratory to his research assistants: cousin Ferdinand and housekeeper Vanessa Winthrop. Each bottle contains a unique sample of Cloud essence, collected above a specific location. Together they supplement and fill the gaps in an airship’s log documenting the Professors journey from West Wycombe, England to the antipodes. The full chest was mysteriously found along with the professor’s other belongings, in good condition in a cave on the side of mount Egmont (Taranaki), New Zealand in 1883 after Lucy’s disappearance in a thunderstorm. 

(drawn from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).

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Essence of Cloud Apothecary Box from H.M.S. Lucy circa 1880

Handcrafted mahogany box with brass fittings, designed, made and aged: Shane Weichnick

Glass bottle, Flame-sculpted, blown and sandblasted borosilicate glass with labels: Mark Eliott.

Location labels: Simi Eliott

Essence of Cloud scent and tonic designed according to location: Ainslie Walker

Dimensions approx. 40cm h x 40cm W x 30cm D (when closed) approx. 80cm wide when open as in image).

Photo: Richard Weinstein

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Professor McFoggarty makes his first attempt to capture cloud essence via hot air balloon, conscripting his Cousin Ferdinand and housekeeper Vanessa Winthrop as research assistants. The professor, having recently been struck by lightning, secretly pursues his vision of a cloud goddess, Ferdinand now wishes he was on the ground with Vanessa, who has been told that the skies are no place for a woman. Her true talents are soon to be revealed.

(drawn from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).

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Cloud Harvest over West Wycombe 1880

Small bushes by Anna Fuglestad

Borosilicate Glass on soft glass base, string, copper.

Photo by Richard Weinstein.

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Due in part to Vanessa’s efforts, Ferdinand’s glass lampwork demonstrations developed into full-blown ‘cloud-making performances’, gaining considerable fame in London and beyond, on the scientific entertainment circuit.

(extract from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).

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McFoggarty’s Famous Cloud-blowing Demonstration circa 1881

Dion Cozic 2021

Interpreted from a sketch by Mark Eliott

Limited edition poster print on aged paper


The topsoil in the field was quite soft, rich and black. Breaking through the grass roots and empty top layer, Claude continued digging, enticed by remnants of mosaic floor and clay roof tiles he came across as well as a chunk of carved stone – from a broken finial perhaps. He continued into red soil and soon unearthed small shards of glazed pottery. Now consumed by the passion of the amateur archaeologist, he ploughed on, making the hole both wider and deeper than he’d intended. Nothing of consequence emerged until he’d tired of his fanciful project and began filling in the hole. Just then, a clod of earth fell in from the side to reveal something shiny! Claude began to gently claw away the earth from a bulbous glass object;/. At that moment, he felt as excited as a sculptor revealing a hidden form in a block of marble. At that moment, he also felt someone watching him.

(extract from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).


Primitive Cloud Syphon circa 1550

Mark Eliott 2018

Flame-sculpted, blown and sandblasted borosilicate glass.


Claude was frustrated. What good was a quick look at Dario’s Cloud syphon, commonly known as the Spanish trick glass outside of its cabinet? He’d already seen it behind glass. Instead, he decided to make a copy of the vessel, using his scientific glassblowing skills such as they were, so that he could test it in the clouds. For reference he drew on his memory as well as the photo in Sgt Pepper’s Instagram post, the diagram in the ancient scroll and the sketch in Vanessa Winthrop’s diary. For dimensions he measured the cavity in the old trick glass box.

(extract from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).


Dario’s Cloud Syphon: artists reconstruction
(based on the Spanish Trick Glass at Corning Glass Museum)

Mark Eliott 2018

Flame-worked borosilicate glass, mixed media.

Case from recycled Australian hardwood by Luke Mitchel.

Photo: Richard Weinstein


At school, Claude had often been called Cloudy head. He was certainly tall and skinny, light enough to float, and clumsy to boot. As a more confident adult, he reclaimed the title almost as a badge of honour rather than an insult. Now he could happily walk down the street in a parallel dimension and forgive himself for getting lost by applying the argument that fabulous discoveries are often made by accident.

(extract from: Essence of Cloud, the novel by Mark Eliott).

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Cloudy Head

flame-sculpted, blown and sandblasted borosilicate glass, stone base.

Dimensions approx. 25cm H x 60cm w x 30cm D (including stone base)

Photo: Richard Weinstein



In the context of architecture (and town planning), I see trees as the improvisational ‘other’ - needed by humans to counterbalance the order of the built environment yet not always trusted for their independent mind.  Like an unruly artist - commissioned to provide an unspecified artwork for a building, the tree is a wild thing, which can be partially but never entirely tamed, with its tendency to undermine structures with it’s roots and sprout branches in unexpected places.


Since reading Peter Wohlleben’s: The Hidden Life of Trees, I am no longer able to see these organisms merely as chunks of wood with bark and leaves on, but as entities on whom our lives depend, who have some kind of undeniable intelligence and character.  Instead, I sometimes commit the different sin of anthropomorphising them.


“It all started down at the local (where else?), after a solid rain.  We were having a good natter over a drink when we accidentally bumped branches under the table.  Next thing our mycorrhizal fungi connected and it was on!”

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Down at the Water Table (Arboreal series).

Borosilicate glass – blown and Flame-sculpted, recycled Australian Red Cedar, water.

Dimensions 58 cm H x 69cm W x 16 cm D
Photo Richard Weinstein

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Down at the Water Table Detail (Arboreal series).

Photo Richard Weinstein


I encounter this tree each time I stay at the Glassworks Chapel where it stands sentinel (from a human viewpoint).  Since reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, I have come to think of it as a lone voice: a strong and independent presence.


Each morning I smell the intense aroma of Eucalyptus – (or is it possum piss) as I walk barefoot around the base of the tree, my mind awakening to the raw sensation of gumnuts crunching underfoot.

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A Mind of It’s Own (Arboreal series)

Borosilicate glass - blown, hot sculpted and sandblasted

Photo: Wendy Dawes, Canberra Glassworks


In this body of work my intention is to honour both endangered creatures and the people who care for them and to do it as a kind of war hero portraiture. As well as the huge variety of struggling species, across the globe there is an unsung army, of scientists, environmentalists, retirees, farmers, children and do-gooders of all sorts wondering about in the fields, on the beaches and in the undergrowth looking after fragile organisms. They are not heros in the nationalistic sense but rare and precious people - often going about unseen in floppy hats and plain clothes fighting a daily war to protect the biodiversity of life. 


The contemporary story of the Hooded Plovers and their chicks as I know it, is a struggle for survival on beaches beset by foxes, dogs, Ravens, vehicles, gulls and heavy feet. In a miracle of cross-species empathy however, these birds loom large for a thoughtful Homo sapiens who has dedicated much of her time to their protection around Kioloa NSW. To me, Jodie Dunn belongs to a species of animal which is capable not only of the most horrendous stupidity and violence towards other living things, but also of the most indescribably beautiful insights, caring and generosity. 

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Hooded Plover and Jodie Dunn
(Hero's in the war for species survival series) 2014

Flame-worked and blown borosilicate glass, beach sand.

Photo: Dylan Esguerra


Hooded Plover and Jodie Dunn Detail
(Hero's in the war for species survival series) 

Photo: Dylan Esguerra


These pieces were made for Glass Wind Improvisations: an exhibition of my glass ‘Playable objects’; freshly-blown for live improvisations by a glass-wind ensemble which included the extraordinary musicians Jim Denley, Axel Powrie, Mimi Kind and Shota Matsumura – well-known in part for being able to coax musical sounds from unlikely objects even when they are still warm from the glass torch.


As a life performance of glassblowing and music-making, a reciprocal influence was hoped for between myself and the musicians. In some cases the forms were influenced by my music synaesthesia in which sound appears in colours, patterns and shapes.  I am also referencing the genre of ‘functional art glass’ or pipe-making.


The exhibition which was generously opened by Maureen Cahill AM at 107 Presents in Redfern and filmed by the very talented Dennis de Caires.

Glass Wind Improvisaions

Mark Eliott performing with Mimi Kind and Axel Powrie

 Photo: Rhiannon Hopley

Flute Beads (playable object series)

Flame-blown and sculpted borosilicate glass on cotton cord. 2017

Photo: Rhiannon Hopley

Alto Flute Tree (Playable Object series)

Flame-blown and sculpted borosilicate Glass 2017

Photo Dennis de Cares

Horn Improvisation #2 (Playable Object Series)

Flame-blown and sculpted borosilicate Glass 2017

Photo Dennis de Cares

Squawkophone (playable object series) 2017-18

Flame blown and sculpted borosilicate glass

 Photo: Richard Weinstein


The title of his project is intended to draw attention to the way much improvisational creativity is
gradual and incremental – resembling more the growth of coral than fast and furious Jazz
improvisation. With this approach Mark usually sets off with a theme such as a colour palette and
the kind of intuitive logic that plants seem to apply when producing branches, roots or buds. You
don’t have to follow complex planning procedures, the next branch will usually tell you where it
wants to be. This approach evolved in part from the incremental technique Mark uses in Flame-
ation which demands slow, cumulative sequences of growth a couple of milometers at a time with
subtle changes in colour and form that can be speeded up to a more dynamic sequence of
movement in the editing process. A different aesthetic is produced with forms that more slowly
rather than always seeking the fastest route from A to B.


Today synapses snapped.

One thing led to another:

The brain grew a thousand neurons,

the body grew a thousand nerve endings-

like coral: almost crystalline.

The heart broke into a thousand shards-

piercing the mind from the inside,

then took flight - a thousand birds on the wing: moving as one.


This work began as a demo during a Samsung TV screen launch then took shape at Sydney College of
the arts over months of exhilarations and frustrations and exhilarations. Next it evolved into a
crystallization of grief at my father’s passing. Over time the grief dilutes into smaller crystals, which
still hurt but become lighter - like the wings of birds.


Improvisation on Red Spikes 2007-2011

Flame blown and sculpted borosilicate glass

Photo: Richard Weinstein


Jam at Knot gallery began as an improvisation to the live music of Clayton Thomas (Double base) and Dale Gorfinkle (vibraphone)– 2 gifted Australian Jazz music improvisers. It was begun during the 48 hour Live Art event at Knot Gallery, Sydney and then took on a life of its own in my studio. The branch-like form at the centre of the piece represents the fluidity of the music while the structure of networks on its surface (completed in the studio) suggests the music’s sensitivity and subtlety.

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Jam at Knot Gallery 2004-2007

Flame sculpted and blown borosilicate glass.
Photo: Dennis DeCares



Pumice stones gather in peace at the edge of Lake Taupo - place of blue calm; yet they serve also as a reminder of times of violent change, like the volcano from which they were born or the burnt, carved wood-bones of a Pa by the shores of my fathers childhood memory.

At this lake my internal water level reaches a kind of equilibrium.

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All Calm on The Shore of Lake Taupo, 2018

Flame-worked borosilicate glass hot-fused onto pumice stone
Photo: Richard Weinstein


Phill and Marks collaboration began as an unexpected pairing made by Interchange. During discussions about their different interests there appeared a common appreciation of emergent properties in living systems. This was apparent in Marks reading of Peter Wohlleben’s: The Hidden Life of Trees, in which the natural forest is seen as functioning as an integrated body.  This was consistent with Phill's interest in the human system as a global organism, with influences such as Claude Bernard, Who wrote the definitive book: The Wisdom of the Human Body, in which Bernard proposes the body is consistently adapting to meet the changing external environment.


Both Mark and Phil agreed that a reductive, mechanistic view of life and the natural world is problematic, as it denies the symbiotic nature of living things and focuses on difference rather than commonality. This lead to the current work which brought together two very different practices: kiln forming of soda-lime glass and flame-worked borosilicate to present the human body as a living landscape.


The process lead to a playful combining of forms, including Phill’s cast of model: Anita  Springintveld's torso, and a forest of Marks abstracted glass trees crowned in pumice stones, which Phill brought over from New Zealand’s Brooklyn Beach. Pumice is one of the only materials which Mark has discovered can be hot-fused to borosilicate glass. A root mass is presented within the figurative form to symbolise the dynamic system of fungal networks used by forests for communication and self-regulation.


Emergence: Underlying Structures in Nature, 2018

Flame-worked borosilicate glass hot-fused onto pumice stone, Kiln-formed float glass.


Photo: Richard Weinstein


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