The Glass Factory- a new place for innovation of Swedish glass

After some favourable decades in Swedish glass in the 1980s and 90s the beginning of the 21st century presented the Swedish glass industry with new situations as well as reconfiguration that led to a paradigmatic shift within Nordic glass during the 2010 decade. After the 2008 financial crisis, several large and smaller Nordic glassworks were shut down. Sweden was especially hard hit by these developments, with the closure of several glassworks that were part of the Orrefors Kosta Boda brand. While the industry was confronting perhaps its most difficult crisis, the evolving operations of Scandinavia’s studio glassworks and individual practitioners and makers were becoming stronger.

In Sweden The Glass Factory opened in 2011, working as a museum and glass centre to promote creative, innovative developments with glass as a material, operating in various ways through exhibitions, residencies and production, with international projects, Fab Lab activities, neon workshops and glass workshops and other programmed activities, and collaborating with interdisciplinary partners from Sweden and other countries. An important focus of the museum and glasscenter is also to develop new businessmodels in product development and matchmaking between artists and companies. One of the main functions of The Glass Factory is to form a sustainable placemaking method to promote ideas and innovations in glass by makers and artists. Glass museums and glass centres have increasingly taken up the role of incubators for future developments in the glass field, opening up new opportunities for glassworkers.

In the last ten years The Glass Factory has expanded and collaborated with many artists and makers who moved to The Kingdom of Crystal and hire a studio at The Glass Factory to produce their glass in Boda. The artists have shaped The Glass Factory as a place for innovation in Swedish glass and changed the field of Swedish glass permanently.

The artists collaborating with The Glass Factory have started to research and deconstruct glass as a material, combining it with new technologies and questioning current methodologies in manufacturing by experimenting with innovative processes of production. Two of the artists who emerged from changes in the glass field and who has employed a research perspective are Charles Stern and Carl Cyrén, who investigates new technologies such as 3D printing and how it can be used in a future production process. As makers began focusing on artistic research, efforts also were being made to deconstruct glass as a material and its norms. Björn Friborg and Fredrik Nielsen call into question the historical tradition of transparency and limpidity of glass, in which the “pure glass material” appears as a norm. Redefining the material he is pushing it beyond the historical norms of the glass manufacturing process. In his sculptures the material is harshly and unconventionally penetrated, challenging the historic production processes with established bodily movements and rules which have been defined during the last 500 years of history.

Other artists, like Hanna Hansdotter examine new businessmodels and work with branding and innovative markets in glass. Artist Åsa Jungnelius takes her point of departure for her conceptual works in a social context often working with parts of the human body as stereotypes. She examines aesthetic hierarchies, power structures, taste and the social construction of gender roles. Jungnelius seeks out stereotypical objects used as models or references in order to puncture their conventional significance.

Markus Emilssons, Nina Westmans and Anna-Linda Gabriels work has a participatory approach and integrates to public in a creative process. Peter Kuchinke and Peter Hermansson focus on historical techniques in new innovative contexts and Tillie Burden, who moved to Boda from Australia works with everyday objects as miniature fetishes in glass.

The exhibition “Boda Builders” shows that in recent years Swedish glass has entered a period of transition. It is no longer production in large units that serves as a basis for contemporary glass practices, but rather an international, experimental, research-oriented activity, often interdisciplinary and on a project basis with a strong focus on placemaking. By deconstructing glass as a material practice the makers investigate innovative possibilities for the craft, where the structures and norms in today’s glass Swedish tradition are broken down and the view of glass and its production and development is broadened through the support of innovative places.

Participating artists:

  • Fredrik Nielsen
  • Björn Friborg
  • Charles Stern
  • Carl Cyrén
  • Hanna Hansdotter
  • Åsa Jungnelius
  • Markus Emilsson
  • Nina Westman
  • Anna-Linda Gabriel
  • Peter Kuchinke
  • Peter Hermansson
  • Tillie Burden
  • Simon Kashmir Holm
  • Amy Krüger

Exhibition runs from 23 August - 30 September 2019