“Scandinavian Glass of the 20th Century” by Charles Hajdamach

June saw the welcome return of Charles Hajdamach who gave us a wonderfully illustrated lecture on 20th Century Scandinavian glass.  As one of the country’s leading authorities on glass, Charles founded and established the Broadfield House Glass Museum in Kingswinford in 1980, which has become one of the foremost glass museums of the world.

Scandinavian glass has emanated from factories in all four countries, some of which were established in the 18th century.  Initially the Norwegian and Swedish factories re-recreated British and other European styles and designs and this continued well into the 19th century when the influences of Emile Galle and others in the Art Nouveau movement became increasingly obvious with many derivative copies being produced.  Gradually many of the factories were forced to close as demand was weak, however the result was that some, particularly Orrefors and Kosta Boda in Sweden began to employ highly skilled and innovative  designers of their own and in doing so created the hotbed of contemporary design which resulted in Scandinavian glass became world renowned.

In 1916 and 1917 two artists, Simon Gate and Edvard Hald were employed by Orrefors.  While both were fine artists in their own right neither had any previous experience of working with glass but both became leaders in the field of design and Charles showed a number of fine examples of their work.  An interesting aside was that because the factories couldn’t get supplies of the ingredients for lead glass much of the output was in grey glass, another unique feature of Scandinavian glass.  Despite winning vast praise at the 1925 Paris Exposition for the scale of contemporary design the company couldn’t survive on the production of fine pieces and expanded into making commercial ranges, also designed by Gate and Hald.  The company continued to employ a stream of extraordinarily talented designers including Vicke Lindstrand who developed the inclusion of air bubbles, a technique known as Ariel, and Sven Palmquist who evolved a sand blasting technique during his 50 years with the company.  Evolution was the key to survival and the company moved into ‘pop-art’ in the 1960’s with mixed success.  Sadly even a 2011 a collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld was not enough and Orrefors finally closed for good in 2014.

Charles then showed some fine examples of the work emanating from Kosta Boda a company founded in 1742 to make window glass but still now continues the tradition of contemporary and innovative glass design having employed a number of designers from Orrefors.

Moving on to Finnish glass Charles focused on two factories; Littalia and Nuutajarvi.  Littalia founded in 1881 as a glassworks became prominent when Aino and Alvar Aalto were employed as designers in the 1939’s and started to produce wonderful vases.  Much later another of their artists, Tapio Wirkkala developed the technique of blowing glass into wooden moulds and examples were shown.  This technique was copied in the UK by Whitefriars.  The second factory, Nuutajarvi, was founded in 1793 and like the others quoted has survived by constantly evolving in both product and design.  While it now focuses on Finnish Art Glass such as the renowned birds by Oiva Tokka the factory has become a major tourist attraction.

Only one factory remains in Norway, Hadelands, specialising in novelty crystal items while in Denmark Holmegard and Kastrup continue to produce fine glass tableware.

Charles finished by encouraging the group to investigate the art work of Bertil Vallien who uses sand blast and cast glass techniques in his art.