The party was over. The world was shrinking. Glass tableware was "made in Taiwan". The Swedish glass-industry bled. For BV the fight for handicraft had begun. Solution: The Artist Collection.

The 1960s /in terms of designing/may have seemed like one long honeymoon to BV, but the 1970s entailed a long, hard struggle. The Åfors factory, and others, were obliged to adapt/adjust to the new situation, himself included. It was no longer possible to promote three new services a year per designer. Household articles, such as vases and bowls which before had been very profitable were no longer in demand. Only a limited market for art glass and a wider one for moulded glass remained. Bertil was already supplying both these sectors, while desperately seeking an alternative to the increasing mechanisation of the manufacturing process.

Many glass-factory owners were contemplating automation at this time; some had already implemented it. Åfors was not one of them. On the other hand, the glassblowers at Kosta were obliged to work in close proximity to the "industrial robot" that spewed out party plates, snowballs and Xmas decorations, all round the clock.

Erik Rosen, former managing director of KostaBoda, admits that in the long-term perspective investing in a machine of that size and expense (i.e. 30 million Swedish kronor) had not been a good idea. In spite of the advice from numerous consultants "our efforts with the glass failed", he says. "The technicians had no experience of handicraft, and were unable to adapt the automatic process to our particular sphere of product."

The only way out of the crisis, in Vallien's view, was: hand-made serial glass that defied imitation. He forcefully maintained that if the Swedish manual glass industry was to survive it had to back handicraft and raise the artistic level. Throughout the 1970s he devoted himself to improving working methods at the glass-factory. The artisans were given a freer hand, and a greater personal responsibility in the rationalisation of their work Particular phases of the manufacturing process were facilitated by new equipment (and methods*) which Vallien himself invented.

By 1976, the work of renewal progressed. And now it was time to introduce a new concept - the Artist Collection. This meant that an artefact, while retaining its basic form would be "personalised" by the artisans who handled it at the various stages of the manufacturing process, thereby making imitation more difficult.

During the 1970s Vallien was influenced by the ideas of the studio-glass movement, which was gaining ground in America. There the emphasis was on the unique artefact, the one-off, and greater freedom in creation. He seized on these ideas to build up a rationalised production. The outcome proved to be a great success, for him personally, and for the Swedish glass industry.

One of the first series within the Artist Collection was "Windpipes", whose basic form originated in a number of unique clear-glass pieces from the mid-1960s. These tall bottles with decorative surface applications, and inlays of yellow and crushed lilac glass, are one of the most popular series in the Artist Collection.

The receding market for table glass naturally affected Vallien's own production. Only six new collections left the drawing board during the1970s. They were: Röhmer (1971), Old Boda (1975), Ballad (1975), Octave (1977), H20 (1977), and Admiral (1979). The most successful of the services was 'Octave' and a tone-setter for his subsequent glass services in the '70s. 'H20' was inspired by laboratory/Chemistry jars* and has a clean, almost ascetic design. Though not as long-lived as Octave, it still is one of the most outstanding pieces in Vallien's table-glass production.



Windpipes.










Octave, 1977.










H²O, 1977.









Cirrus, 1974.

 

 

 

Bagdad, 1976.


 

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