Hot, dangerous, and physically demanding work, traditional glass making methods go back centuries. Scandinavian glass was not widely known until 1920’s, when glass designers started a movement to bring high design standards to mass-produced glassware. However, without a doubt, some of the finest glass produced are those made in Scandinavia. Today, people from all over the world is fascinated by the magic of Scandinavian glass.
Glassmaking arrived in the Scandinavian countries in the 1500’s, which may seem early but relatively late compared with the rest of Europe. Denmark, Norway and Sweden are producers of Scandinavian glass, also known as Nordic glass.
With increased demand glass became such an integral part of Scandinavian culture that entire communities were built around the glassworks. The glassworks were established in small town like Orrefoss, Kosta, Kastrup and Hadeland. At that time, it was demanding and dangerous work with little protection for the workers. That has, of course, changed over the years.
In Denmark, the leading glassworks are Kastrup and Holmegaards, which became one company in 1954. Michael Bang and Per Lutken were concentrating on very simple flowing vases in dark colors and were their most famous designers.
In Norway, the main glassworks is Hadeland, which was founded in 1792. Notable glass designers in the 1950’s were Arne Jon Jutrem and Severin Bjorby.
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In Sweden, the great Orrefors glass-works led the way and designers like Simon Gate and Edward Hald developed techniques like Graal glass and Ariel glass, Sven Palmquist developed Ravenna glass, and Vicke Lindstrand designed for Orrefors from 1928 to 1941.
Kosta, the oldest glassworks in Sweden, founded 1742, and Flygfors, established in 1888, also produced some brilliant designs. In the 1950s Paul Kedely produced his Coquelle series of sculptured vessels for Flygfors. Flygfors was later taken over by Orrefors and closed in 1980.
The Magic of Scandinavian Glass
The Scandinavian glass making communities, surrounded by ample forests filled with production resources, produced fine crystal, excelling in engraved and enamel décor, for hundreds of years. But Scandinavian glass was held in somewhat low regard in the rest of Europe. It wasn’t until the Paris World Fair of 1925 that Scandinavian glass finally gained international recognition for its quality, beauty, and craftsmanship.
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The second world war was a difficult time for Scandinavian glassworks. However, after the war they went back into full gear and readily embraced the new modern aesthetic. They experimented with color and new shapes, and produced some of the most beautiful glass pieces ever made, often simple, some seemingly delicate, but always striking.
Antique and vintage Scandinavian glass is widely collected by enthusiasts today and can be found at relatively reasonable prices.
Feature image (on top): Etched crystal from Sweden
The Magic of Scandinavian Glass, written by Tor Kjolberg