Swedish Glass Design.
Sweden was the world’s most significant glassmaking nation
of the 20th century, and Swedes hold glass closer to their
national identity than any others. The diversity of the
glass designed and made in Sweden between c1950-85
constituted arguably the greatest outpouring of originality
and quality over the shortest period in glassmaking
Almost entirely without previous national glassmaking
significance, Sweden emerged onto the world stage just
before 1920, following the invention at Orrefors of Graal,
an entirely original method of internally-decorating
glassware [figure 1]. Swedish glass continued its
relentless rise towards the summit of world glassmaking
throughout the 1920s and 30s, when Orrefors’ in-house
designer Vickie Lindstrand rivalled René Lalique in his
dynamism and diversity.
Figure 1: Goblet vase formed using the internally
decorated Graal technique. Designed by Simon
Gate for Orrefors, 1918. 23.5cm. [Stockholms
In 1945, Sweden emerged from World War 2 unscathed: its
infrastructure intact, its economy strong and its research
& development galvanised. Reaping the benefits over the
next two decades, Swedes became, per capita, the richest
people on earth, and their glass the most widely admired.
The ideal of twinning of craft and design to provide
‘ordinary’ people with efficient and attractive domestic
wares had been at the forefront of the Swedish intellectual
agenda since 1900. But it became a reality from the 1950s
as a wave of young design graduates joined the industry and
were positively encouraged towards experimentation.
Regularly working shoulder-to-shoulder with
master-craftsmen, often at the furnace mouth, they created
and extended the artistic and technical range of Swedish
This freedom was not based on altruism, but commercial
logic. Designers were granted time and resources to develop
new ideas, sometimes over several years. The results,
formed as unique or limited edition ‘studio pieces’, were
exhibited in department stores and galleries. The best, and
elements derived from them, were then adapted for series
production. Some of these, often pitched at the price of an
hour’s manual labour, sold hundreds of thousands, and even
millions of examples, such as Göran Wärff’s Snowball votive
 and Bertil Vallien’s Zoo series . [figures 2
Figure 2: Cast crystal Snowball votive, designed
by Göran Wärff for Kosta, 1973. The
best-selling item in Swedish glassmaking history. From
Kosta catalogue, 1984.
Figure 3: Cast crystal Hippo from Bertil Vallien’s
Boda Zoo series, 1976. 12.8x24.3cm.
Inevitably, the designers with the biggest sales enjoyed
both the greatest freedom and longevity. Some emerged as
national celebrities [figure 4] and many, including most of
the subjects of this book, enjoyed careers spanning over a
Figure 4: Celebrity Swedish glass designers:
Bertil Vallien, Göran and Ann Wärff and
Rolf Sinnemark [Boda 1967-86] and friends with
Scandinavia’s first hot air balloon, which they bought
in 1968. [Vallien Archive].
The creative wave in Swedish glass, spanning c1950-85, was
manifested in a diversity of quality and price that
appealed not only the connoisseur but also to lumberjacks
and businessmen. With rising prosperity across the
industrialised world in the post-war boom, Swedish glass
enraptured the world, from Stockholm to New York and to
Sydney, where young couples setting up homes proved eager
for attractive objets to adorn them.
This book differs from previous studies of the subject:
perhaps most importantly because it is the first in the
English language. Second, most others have taken a Greatest
Hits approach, concentrating on unique and high-value
pieces, many in museum and private collections. This study,
the result of six years research, takes a different
approach by placing equal emphasis on everyday glassware,
often with current values in single and double figures.
Indeed, a majority of the pieces illustrated are worth
After a general introduction to Swedish glassmaking, the
book studies the evolving careers of seven individuals.
Their careers span 1929 to the present, a total of 85
years, largely encompassing the ‘Glory Years’ of Swedish
glassmaking. Six are designers, one a businessman. The
latter, Erik Rosén [1924-2009], was the most influential
figure in post-war Swedish glass, who directed Boda
Glasbruk, then KostaBoda, with a Midas touch between
1947-78 [figure 5].
Figure 5: Erik Rosén [front, centre] with Erik
Höglund and the Boda workforce celebrating the
works’ centenary in 1964. [Boda Archive].
The decision over which designers to include in the book
was subjective, and not necessarily based on who is or was
the best or the greatest Swedish glass designer. Indeed,
Signe Persson Melin [1925-] is more a ceramicist or
industrial designer, and worked only periodically in glass.
However, Vicke Lindstrand [1904-83] was an obvious choice
as his eminent careers at Orrefors and Kosta, 1928-73,
spanned the old and the new ages of Swedish glass [figure
6]. Another must-have was Erik Höglund [1932-98], whose
cheeky and rustic approach did more than any other to
expand the market for domestic glassware [figure 7].
Figure 6: Internally decorated Winter vase, designed
by Vicke Lindstrand for Kosta, c1951. 17.5cm.
[Geoff Lawson/Andy McConnell].
Figure 7: Cadmium red suncatcher pressed with a naked
woman with folded arms, H866A, designed by Erik
Höglund c1965. 25.8x18cm.
Sadly, both Lindstrand and Hoglund had passed on before the
book was first conceived. The remainder were chosen from
the living. Göran Wärff [1933-] and Bertil Vallien [1938-]
were included for similar reasons: longevity and quality.
Signe Persson Melin [1925-] and Lars Hellsten [1932-] are
not as well known but both made individual contributions,
through Melin’s elegant practicality [figure 8] and
Hellsten’s idiosyncratic and pioneering voyage into
centrifuged glass [figure 9].
Figure 8. Elements from Signe Persson Melin’s
Bouquet service for Boda, 1972. [Boda Archive].
Figure 9. Centrifuge-cast crystal Mussla [Mussel]
sculpture, designed by Lars Hellsten
for Orrefors, 1977. 40cms max. [Orrefors Archive].
Wärff, Vallien, Persson Melin and Hellsten have all
participated kindly and actively during the research into
their particular chapters, each allowing total access to
their archives, and their memories.
Swedish Glass Design is due for publication by the Antique
Collectors’ Club, probably in 2016. It will comprise around
500 pages of texts and images in full colour. The texts
will be subordinate to the illustrations, totalling some
2,000 pieces. These have been drawn from archives, museums
and private collections, including those of its featured
Swedish Glass Design will be divided into eight
major chapters. Each opens with several pages of
introductory text and images before the designs of each
individual are illustrated in chronological order, together
with their sizes, production numbers, etc.
The chapters are dedicated to:
1. Introduction to Swedish
Glass: historic background to the present.
2. Erik Rosén [1924-2009]; director Boda, 1947-64];
3. Vicke Lindstrand [1904-83]: [Orrefors [1928-40]; Kosta
4. Erik Höglund [1932-98]: Boda [1953-73]; Strömberg &
5. Göran Wärff [1933-]: Pukeberg [1958-64]; Kosta
6. Bertil Vallien [1938-]: Boda [1963-].
7. Signe Persson-Melin [1925-]: Boda [1967-75]; Boda Nova
8. Lars Hellsten [1932-]; Skruf [1964-72]; Orrefors