Ulrica Hydman Vallien
Since her breakthrough as a glass artist in the 80s, Ulrica Hydman Vallien has been one of Sweden’s most beloved artists. Her bold, personal, free, uncontrollably visual style became known beyond art audiences, and far beyond the borders of Sweden – to the extent that Ulrica was one of 50 artists chosen to create the decorations for British Airways’ aircraft fleet in the 90s.
Hydman Vallien became so popular, iconic and commercially successful as a glass artist in her lifetime that the success and popularity had a negative impact on her reputation among more elite circles of the art world. This went so far that other artists parodied her style in their work – the sincerest form of flattery, as they say. While she never saw a problem, others asserted that Hydman Vallien’s popularity stood in the way of her artistry.
It is therefore gratifying that, after her sudden death in 2018, Ulrica Hydman Vallien has received greater recognition among fine art circles as well, which had at times been critical of her during her lifetime. The acclaimed exhibition, A Paradise Attack, held at Liljevalchs in Stockholm in 2020, and the eponymous documentary on Swedish television, featured the breadth, richness and unlimited imagination of her artistry. In addition to being a glass artist and designer, Ulrica was also an incredible painter, ceramic artist, textile artist and visual poet.
After her death and the retrospective at Liljevalchs, Hydman Vallien also gained broader recognition as the great source of inspiration she was, especially among younger female artists. As such, her work is also stirring increasing international interest. We want to feature this characteristic with our tribute collection in her honor and with the Ulrica Hydman Vallien scholarship, which was awarded to Ellen Ehk Åkesson in 2019.
Ulrica Hydman Vallien was born and raised in Stockholm in a family with significant interest in the arts, and from which three of the five siblings attended the University of Arts, Crafts & Design, including Ulrica. One of her teachers there was Stig Lindberg, who became a major source of inspiration. She also met her husband, Bertil Vallien, at the university. Together, after graduating, they began their artistic careers as radical ceramic artists in the US, traveling around the United States and Mexico on artistic field trips.
When Bertil Vallien was offered a position as an artist at the Åfors Glassworks in 1963, the couple moved to Småland. In the studio in Åfors, they worked side by side for half a century. But Hydman Vallien continued to work with her ceramics for the first nine years in Småland – at first, she refused to tackle glass. When she debuted as a glass artist in 1972, it was with a rather controversial object. Her “Rat Bowl,” a glass bowl decorated with painted rats, was a little too much for Kosta Boda’s leadership at the time. The bowl never went into production.
Ulrica Hydman Vallien’s major success came in 1986, when she launched Open Minds and Caramba, two top-selling, popular collections that became classics and with which she is associated today. In 1991, she launched Tulipa, which took her popularity to the next level – making her too popular for her own good, according to some elite circles. Tulipa is the most-sold glass collection ever in the world. When demand for the collection was at its peak worldwide, Ulrica Hydman Vallien alone was responsible for employing around 20 decoration painters at Kosta Boda.
For Kosta Boda, Ulrica Hydman Vallien is of invaluable importance both as a person and as an artist. Her sudden passing, right in the middle of her intensely vibrant life, came as a shock. But Ulrica’s artistic legacy lives on, cared for and developed by younger generations of artists and craftspeople in Kosta Boda’s studios and hot shops. Long live Ulrica!
Ulrika Hydman Vallien’s art is represented in collections at institutions such as Moderna Museet and Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, the Gothenburg Museum of Art, Röhsska Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum in London and many more.