Glass was "in" again, and at a premium. The Artist Collection, marketed as "tomorrow's antiques", was reaping rewards. Glass factory rescued by an optically blown wineglass. In the 1980s BV comes into his own.

Inside the shabby grinding shop at the Åfors glass factory, in the mid-eighties, there would very likely be five employees trimming and polishing miniature versions of, for instance, "Windpipes" or "Antiqua". Further down the room stood a railway crate piled with black boxes containing miniatures of "Galaxy" and "Network". Destination: SAS (Scandinavian Airline Systems), the high-flying airline company that was flying ever higher. SAS had a standing order for thousands of miniatures from the Artist Collection. The black boxes were handed out to all Business, and First-class passengers.

The recession of the 1970s was at an end. Political awareness and lack of interest in luxury goods had now given way to a different attitude. With the return of a buoyant economy, luxury consumption became a dominant feature of the decade. The general public, starved of pomp and glamour for so long, was drawn to the alluring sparkle of crystal. Vino tinto and the doctrines of Mao were replaced by champagne and 'Business Week'. The Western world had acquired a taste for the good life. Glass had a key role in shaping the mythmaking of the legendary roaring eighties.

The Artist Collection was now an established trademark. Bertil's ingenious concept of personalised glass series perfectly matched the mood of the1980s, with its insistence on individualism. Bertil supplied the market with a range of artistic collections, which included: Network, Galaxy, Minos, Apostrophe, Volcano, Pearl, Aphrodite, Rainbow, Spin, and Centilope.

Network and Volcano, like Windpipes from the 70s, had their origin in his art glass production from the 1960s. Both were based on experimentation in the work-shop. 'Network' was blown in a mould clad with wire netting, while 'Volcano' acquired its singular appearance from the use of steel wire. One of the most popular series was 'Galaxy', consisting of bowls, vases and bottles in varying sizes. On a ground of crushed white glass a variety of coloured strands in varying thicknesses were applied to give the impression of trailing galaxies..
An innovation for the 80s was a miniature version of each series in the Artist Collection, and for the avid collector, a purpose-built shelf on which to place the small, fist-sized pieces.

But bubbling champagne requires glasses. So the old idea of the "complete set of drinking glasses" was revived; wineglasses, beer tankards, schnapps glasses, whisky tumblers, brandy glasses, and so on. In the 1980s BV designed some of his best and most popular services.

The story of how "Chateau" came to be made is one of those good luck tales. It all began at the end of the 1970s. Bertil was working all out to finish an optically blown service that would defy mechanical imitation and which would exploit the special competence of the glass-blowers at the Johansfors factory, which had been hard hit by the crisis.

-I was given the task, at very short notice, of coming up with a bestseller, Bertil says, remembering his impression of the factory:
... it was like stepping into the equivalent in glass of a clockmaker's workshop - they made the finest of stems and these amazing carafe stoppers. They had a genuine feel for the craft and a highly developed sense of quality. I made up my mind there and then - that's what I would do, the thing that they were best at - wine glasses.
However, at the preliminary trials things went badly wrong. Quite contrary to Bertil's expectations, the glass mass just curled and twisted. He accepted the result however, and in 1981'Chateau' was launched. The fiasco at Johansfors turned out a winner. Twenty years on, with a record sales of 12 million glasses, it remains the most popular wineglass in the world.

-My idea with Chateau was twofold, says Bertil Vallien. Firstly, I wanted to make a glass that couldn't be have been made by a machine, and which was visibly hand-made. I solved this with an optical effect to the bowl and a long, slender stem.
The other criterion was a beautiful, simple, and multi-serviceable glass.
Indeed, Chateau is both beautiful and functional. The optical effects enhance the tinted lustre of the glass, and of its contents.

Chateau set the tone for Vallien's subsequent services during the 1980s.The sturdy restraint that dominated in the first 20 years was replaced by an ethereal delicacy, with thin-walled glass and slender stems. While working on Chateau, he was simultaneously designing 'Ulrica', a service without optical effects, and which came out in the same year. After that he produced a new service every other year: 'Nouveau' (1983), Grand Cru (1985), and Provence (1987)In Grand Cru the sensual form is offset by a node at the base of the stem, and contrasts with the overall impression of feathery lightness.
Povence is characterised by an air-bubble placed in the stem. Both Provence and Grand Cru are masterpieces of beautiful and functional design.

Bertil Vallien's efforts during the 1970s, to avert the threat of mechanisation made it possible for ordinary people to buy artistic glass at a reasonable price. In the wider perspective, he has raised professional standards and the status of the artisans at the glass-factory, and also created a solid label for Swedish glass. Vallien was a major actor in the struggle to rescue the Swedish manual glass industry, by a combination of technical innovation, high artistic levels, and a rationalised production.



Volcano.










Network.










Pearl.









Aphrodite.

 

 

 

Galaxy Blue, 1982.

 

 

 

Chateau, 1981.

 

 

 

Grand Cru, 1985.

 

 

 

Centilop, 1988.



 

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