Anne Dybka OAM (1922-2007) was arguably Australia's most accomplished engraver on glass. Auction houses typically introduce her work like this:
Anne Dybka was a well respected, internationally renowned glass engraver. A fellow of London's Guild of Glass Engravers, she engraved crystal for Orrefors, Baccaret and Lalique. She worked in the Rocks, Sydney. Her work is held by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Powerhouse Museum, Sydney and the Glasmuseum, Ebeltoft, Denmark.
That description fails to convey the exquisite detail of her depictions of Australia's flora and fauna and other national symbols. Also missing is her leadership in training another generation of glass artists, as reflected in the readily available CVs of Paddy Robinson, Miki Kubo and Rozlyn de Bussey, among others.
But what was she doing before she was a celebrated glass engraver? The passage quoted above comes originally from the online record of the National Library of Australia. The NLA also mentions her professional life in the 1960s and 70s when she worked for Old Chelsea Glassware in Melbourne and later for Crown Crystal Glass in Sydney. Her role in both places included designing decoration for screen printing onto elegantly shaped drinking glasses (usually imported from Czechoslovakia) and hand painting transfers to decorate ceramics. At Crown Crystal she also started engraving on glass.
The range of her decorative subject matter at this time was wide, reflecting both the utility of the vessels and the exotic fantasy they might have brought to social life in the 1960s and 70s. While flamingos and strawberries come from the Old World, the bottlebrushes and lyrebirds are leading indicators of her later engraved work that captures the beauty of Australia’s plants and animals.
Unusually perhaps for the time and place, she included a signature in many of her designs. The stylized bird with prominent signature - seen here on a tall cylindrical vase - is a recurring motif that can be spotted today on various ceramic shapes in ‘antiques’ shops and online auctions.