Swedish Glassworks—The Orrefors / Kosta Boda Story
The birth of art glass in 1917
Simon Gate came to Orrefors in 1916. During the first years beautiful custom and dish glass were produced, but these artists started to also experiment with Grail glass, which was the beginning to Orrefors Glass Factory's first period of greatness. The production of Grail started late into 1916, but quickly grew bigger during 1917.
In April 1917 art glass and custom glass were displayed at NK in Stockholm. The epoch making Home Exhibition at Liljevalchs presented glass under the term "more beautiful articles for everyday use".
During autumn of 1917 Orrefors had exhibitions in Norway. In December Edward Hald made a debut in Kristiania, where grail by both Gate and Hald was sold. Some fathomed that something great was happening within the glass industry.
The classicism of the 1920s
During the end of the 1910s and the whole 1920s the engraved glass dominated the Orrefors assortment.
Standard production, testimonials, and the various exhibitions show a thin glass covered with skillfully engraved decor in a taunt language of design.
A great advancement during this period was the Paris Exhibition in 1925 - the occasion where the Orrefors glass made its international breakthrough. As the only glass factory, Orrefors received the Grand Prix Medal, as did the artists Simon Gate and Edward Hald.
The glass for Stockholm's exhibition in 1930 was not sketched before production but the design was experimented with directly in the foundry together with the gaffers. The glass now became thick and massive and was not uncommonly seen with a black base. The engraved decor became more sparse. One wanted to bring forth the indwelling beauty of the glass itself. The Grail technique was developed with both fish grail and cut grail.
Vicke Lindstrand came to the factory in 1928 and made a debut at Stockholm's exhibition with among other things vases and bowls in enamel painted decor but also with engraved pieces. Edvin Öhrström came to Orrefors in 1936 as a young sculptor, with the assignment of enriching the factory's profile before the world exhibition in Paris in 1917.
Sven Palmqvist returns to Orrefors after having studied some years at the Technical School and Arts Academy in Stockholm. In 1944 he presented his new art glass series, called Kraka, with a decor that covers the surface like a net. The name comes from the Old Norse Saga of a young girl in love who was to come to her loved one "neither dressed nor undressed", therefore she dressed herself in a fish net.
The Ravenna series, which similarly was a big success was launched in 1948 and has received its name from the beautiful mosaics in the city of Ravenna.
In a large part of the 1950s in Sweden was characterized by a renaissance for architecture and form within the modern home culture. The Swedish art industry including everything in the glass field succeeded in joining beauty with usefulness and thereby achieved great international success.
Ingeborg Lundins vase - The Apple - has come to symbolize this time.
The silver forger Gunnar Cyrén was hired in 1959. His "Pop-glass" came to be associated with the 60th century.
During the 70th century it became evident that artcrafts were coming back and around the end of the decade high demands were placed on advanced handicraft skills. The Grail technique became once again popular through among others Eva Englund who had come to the factory. She learned the technique from the dean himself - Edward Hald.
Other artists at the factory, alongside Gunnar Cyrén, were Olle Alberius, Lars Hellsten, and Jan Johansson.
Focusing on the skillfulness
Artcrafts made a powerful return during the 1970s. At the end of the decade, high demands were placed on the degree of skill in handicrafts.
The Grail technique became popular anew, when the young gifted designer Eva Englund came to Orrefors. The dean himself, was her schoolmaster. Around this time, workers at the factory included Olle Alberius, Gunnar Cyrén, Lars Hellsten, and Jan Johansson.
The post-modern 80s
In 1986 it was decided to stop the production of glass drawn by designers no longer working for Orrefors. Instead the Gallery concept was introduced, which meant collections of art glass in limited series designed by the current artists at the factory. The first collection in 1988 was a great success. Among other things, Eva Englunds figurative grail glass met approving response both in Sweden and abroad, due to its personal and strong subject world. The following gallery collections were released in 1990 and 1992. During this decade a new, young generation of artists joined Orrefors: Anne Nilsson, Erika Lagerbielke, and Helén Krantz.
Following some revolutionary years during the 90s, glass design has entered a new phase. Three younger artists joined Orrefors in the middle of the 90s and allow us to open the door to the design world of the new millennium and tomorrows art glass culture. These are Lena Bergström, Martti Rytkönen, and Per B Sundberg.
In 1998 Orrefors celebrated their 100-year anniversary with several remarkable art glass exhibitions around the world. At the turn of the millennium the well merited glass designer and professor Ingegerd Råman was hired.
Since then many new designers joined Orrefors and have made significant contributions to the current collection. The following are brief biographies of these gifted and talented artists.
Following the journey of glass from a syrupy, molten state to glittering crystal is a spectacular sight that takes place in the Kosta Boda hot shops every day.
Designers, glassblowers, cutters, painters and engravers play their part in this skilled work every day, and each glass from Kosta Boda is a unique and sophisticated piece of craftsmanship. By the time the finished glass leaves the glassworks, no fewer than 15 different people have contributed to the production process.
Since 1898, art and crystal glass for everyday use has been produced under the brand of Orrefors. At our glassworks in Kosta, our skilled glassworkers are joined by several of Sweden's most prestigious designers in developing the design, craftsmanship and new techniques. A smaller part of our production has been produced at other renowned glassworks, mainly in Europe, since 2004. A few products are produced in Asia. At all glassworks, we use the same designers and in many cases the production techniques developed by ourselves in Småland, Sweden.
Early on, Kosta Boda committed to "...develop the expressive power of glass, both artistically and technically," while ensuring that, "Swedish glass will always be elegant, exciting, and of superb quality in both craft and design."
Along with other now—famous Småland glassmakers, Kosta Boda quite literally reinvented the art and craft of Swedish glass in the early part of the 20th century. Moreover, Kosta Boda played a key role in the emergence of a distinctive Scandinavian idiom and quality standards whose goal is design excellence in everything from toys to tableware.
The equation behind this artistic and market success was the collaboration of designer and glassmaker, and that remains true to the present. At Kosta Boda, artist and artisan work side by side, experimenting with recipes, forms, colors and textures—as well as techniques old and new—to produce works of originality and timeless elegance.
The glassworks in Kosta was founded in 1742. The name was created from the surnames of the founders, Generals Koskull and Staël von Holstein. Kosta's location, in the heart of the dense forests in the Swedish province of Småland, was chosen so that the glassworks could provide both Stockholm and Karlskrona with glass. Important roads crossed here, and there was also an unlimited supply of wood to heat the furnaces.
Fine utility glassware was made here during the first 150 years of the company's existence and comprised products such as window panes, bottles and drinkware, but also glass chandeliers and similar items. The customers included royalty, nobility and wealthy merchants who could afford the costly glassware. For a long time, the glassblowers came from Bohemia, which is now part of the Czech Republic. Many decades passed before Swedes learnt how to blow glass.
Kosta exhibited its products at the General Art and Industrial Exposition of Stockholm in 1897, but was criticized because its glassware mostly resembled items made in other parts of Europe. This gave the company the idea of employing its own designers. The idea rapidly gained ground and remains the actual foundation of the way in which the glassworks continually develops its product range.
The first designer at the glassworks was Gunnar G. Wennerberg, who joined the company in 1898. Many well-known artists have worked here since then, such as Sven X-et Ericsson and Ewald Dahlskog. The first female artist was Tyra Lundgren who was recruited in 1935. Many women have worked at the glassworks since then and have been very successful.
Today's Kosta Boda was formed through a merger of the glassworks in the communities of Kosta, Boda and Åfors. The group was initially called AB Åforsgruppen and included Johansfors Glassworks at that time. The company name was changed to Kosta Boda AB in 1976, and the company has been part of Orrefors Kosta Boda AB since 1989.
Manufacturing now takes place at the principal glassworks in Kosta and at Åfors Glassworks.
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