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Nordic Exposure

The Glass of Orrefors and Kosta Boda
Nicholas M. Dawes
From the Print Edition:
Bill Cosby, Autumn 94

(continued from page 1)

As the market for Nordic art glass has grown over the past 10 years, it has attracted more collectors who view the glass as contemporary art, which may explain the market irregularities that are also found in the modern-art world. These collectors select from the impressive range of modern artistic ware produced by glass artists working at Orrefors, Kosta Boda or independently and often assemble a spectrum of contemporary glass from many sources, as one would paintings or sculpture. The majority of modern glass artists trace their origins to the 1970s, when the combination of a free university system and a rebellious, free-spirited young generation (remember Bjorn Borg?), drew creative talent away from Swedish industry and technical pursuits. Industrialists had welcomed and channeled design talent in the spirit of Vackrare vardagsvara up till then, but the new generation of glass artists preferred the individualism of studio work and experimentation in their pursuit of liberalism. The results of this still flourishing movement can be seen in the rich variety of glass by contemporary Swedish artists, much of which is technically and artistically highly innovative and can best be described as expressionist. Orrefors employs up to a dozen artists who make and design unique or limited-edition artistic pieces as well as contribute to the production range. Among these, the best-known include Jan Johansson, who prefers to work in polished, clear crystal, and Anne Nilsson, who trained largely in the United States and makes a variety of styles, including colored-glass fruit forms and tableware evocative of the 1960s. The artist Eva Englund produced fine examples of the New Wave glass for Orrefors in the 1970s and 1980s and now operates as a successful, independent glass artist, designing principally for Venetian companies.

Kosta Boda has excelled in this area of production and employs a stable of young artists, notably Anna Ehrner (whose work includes the "Line" and "Epoque" stemware patterns) and Göran Wärff, who cuts colored-glass vessels into prisms and also employs a version of the Ariel technique. The most celebrated of Kosta Boda's glass artists is the husband-and-wife team of Bertil and Ulrica Hydman-Vallien. Bertil Vallien has produced innovative designs for Kosta since the mid-1970s, including the starkly modernist Oktav tableware pattern he designed in 1977. In recent years Ulrica Hydman-Vallien has been the enfant terrible of Nordic art glass, consistently producing works of extraordinary technical virtuosity in an abstract style that is against all the rules of Swedish tradition. It is this category of Nordic glass that attracts the highest retail prices and most discriminating patrons (including Japanese collectors) and that best continues the Swedish tradition of excellence in design.

Nicholas M. Dawes writes frequently on the antique-glass market.

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