Bertil Vallien is an artist who needs no further introduction for anyone who loves the beauty and mystery of glass. During his 60-year career, Vallien has become renowned among glass lovers, primarily for his sand-cast sculptures, and especially his world-famous glass ships. Bertil Vallien has held acclaimed exhibitions all over the world. His work is represented in collections and at prestigious museums in Sweden and internationally. For Kosta Boda, Vallien is of priceless importance – primarily for his own glass art, but also as a source of inspiration for other artists and designers.
“From the very first moment, I was captivated by all of the seductive properties of glass. I have dedicated my entire life as an artist to exploring and pushing the limits of this material,” says Bertil.
Bertil Vallien began his path in arts and crafts as a ceramic artist at the University of Arts, Crafts & Design in Stockholm, graduating at the top of his class in 1961. He then continued his studies in Mexico and Los Angeles. Bertil began his career as a radical ceramic artist in New York before returning to Sweden and the Kingdom of Crystal, initially at Boda Glassworks. For half a century, he lived and worked with his wife, Ulrica Hydman Vallien, at the glassworks in Åfors, from where the couple’s glass art was spread across the globe.
It was when Bertil Vallien discovered the possibilities of casting in sand in the 60s that he made the definitive choice that glass was the material to which he wanted to dedicate himself as an artist and designer.
“That was how I found my form of expression. I’m a builder and I enjoy using my hands throughout the process. Once I had found my form of expression, I felt that sand-cast glass was what I wanted to focus on completely. A whole new world opened up. Ideas developed and led to new discoveries. The possibilities never end. Over the years, I have taught the technique that I developed quite freely all over the world. Glass is my novel, to which I have dedicated myself ever since – and my drawings are like poetry on the side.
Throughout his career, Bertil Vallien has, as he puts it, “worn two hats” – one as an artist and one as a designer. In addition to his glass art, which has celebrated triumphs all over the world, he has consistently worked with utility glass at the same time; his list of credentials includes some of Kosta Boda’s most beloved and bestselling sets and other objects.
“There is continuous cross-fertilization. I’ve always loved working with production, together with the glassblowers in the studio. In my art, I want my sand-cast sculptures to stand on their own two legs, and to be unique works of art with a purpose beyond decoration.”
Perhaps Bertil Vallien could be considered a symbolist? Certain themes appear regularly in his art, as metaphors for the human condition, emotions and eternal truths. In addition to ships, which have become his signature worldwide, the head, house, ladder and stairs are among the familiar elements of the stories he tells through his art.
“They are easily understandable symbols that represent the existential world. They welcome poetic interpretations from the viewer.”
Bertil Vallien has always been a storyteller of glass.
“I’ve said that when I’m old, which is starting to happen, I’ll become a minimalist. But that’s difficult and time is short. I am and will continue to be the opposite – because I love telling stories! Time!”
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