Bertil Vallien at VIDA Museum in Sweden. photo Kim Saul

Bertil Vallien at VIDA Museum in Sweden. photo Kim Saul

Swedish glass master Bertil Vallien was born in 1938 in a suburb north of Stockholm, where he felt the inclination to be an artist from a very early age. He studied ceramics at the Konstfack School of Arts, Crafts, and Design in Stockholm, then spent two years at the School for Advanced Industrial Design. At Konstfack, he graduated at the top of his class and was awarded a Royal Foundation grant. His love of ceramics took him the Los Angeles for a position with HAL Fromholt Ceramics, and soon he was meeting artists, critics, and gallery owners, attending events at California universities, and exhibiting his ceramics. In 1963, he was invited back to Sweden by the C.H. Åfors glass-factory, where he contributed to a successful reorganization of the company and designed many of their most well-known lines.

Vallien’s introduction to glass offered artistic opportunities that were lacking in ceramics, and blowing glass became central to his work. He has describe it as: “ladling matter out of a volcano and watching the glowing lava turn into ice. Knowing the exact moment at which to capture a shift of light or expression and wrench the secret from the glass is what it’s all about.” Vallien combines his creative and industrial training as the foremost artist working in sand-casted glass, an innovative approach to this very classical medium. His work has a symbolic and mystical narrative, in which the human head, boats, maps, stars, crosses, bridges, pyramids, and rings play recurring roles. Sometimes the light-absorbing glass is transparent like a membrane that allows vision into the spaces within. At other times it is translucent to represent how our understanding can at times be clouded. Each Vallien piece tells a unique story.

As Sweden’s most innovative and well-known contemporary glass artist, Vallien has exhibited around the world from California to Israel. His work is in numerous public collections, including:The State Heritage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia); the National Museum (Stockholm, Sweden); the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, England); the Art Institute of Chicago (IL); the National Museum of Modern Art (Kyoto, Japan); the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY); the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney, Australia); and the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA). He has received numerous awards, including: Prince Eugen’s medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts (1995); an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Vaxjö (2002); the Gold Medal from the Royal Academy of Science, Stockholm (2005); and the Libenski Award, Seattle (2008).




1961-63       Studies in the United States and Mexico on a Royal Scholarship

1957-61       Studies at the National College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm, Sweden

                   Independent artist/designer

                             Freelance designer for Kosta Boda glassworks Sweden since 1963

                            Teaching positions and workshop leader at art schools and universities in the US and Europe.


1967-84                  Head of glass design programme at the College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm, Sweden

1974                 Visiting lecturer and designer t conferences and schools in the USA and Europe

1980-96            Visiting lecturer at the Pilchuck Glass Center, Stanwood, Washington

1984-86            Artist in Residence at the Pilchuck Glass Center, Washington

1985                 Artist in Residence at the Rhode Island School of Design

1993                 New York Experimental Glass Workshop, New York, U.S.A.

1993                 Pratt Fine Art Center, Seattle, U.S.A.

1994                 University of Hawaii at Manau, U.S.A.

1996                 North Lands Creative Glass, Scotland

1999                 University of Sunderland, England Visiting professor



1961                 College of Arts, Crafts and Design Scholarship and medal for best student

1961                 Royal Scholarship

1962                 First prize,”Young Americans”, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, NY, U.S.A.

1965                 Östersund Cultural Scholarship

1967                 The Illum Prize

1968                 Swedish State Major Work Scholarship

1981                 Chosen by ”Japan Interior Design Magazine” as the most influential designer in his field

1983                 First prize for Swedish Design, National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden

1983                 Cultural Scholarship, Municipality of Emmaboda, Sweden

1984                 ”Excellent Swedish Design” prize

1985                 Second prize, Zweiter Coburger Glaspreis, Coburg, Germany

1985                 Silver medal, International Juried Art Competition, New York, U.S.A.

1988                 The Formland Prize, Denmark

1988                 ”Excellent Swedish Design”, honourable mention for Provence tableware

1990                 Diploma, Nordform, Malmö, Sweden

1991                 The Formland Prize, Denmark

1994                 Cultural Scholarship, The South Swedish Chamber of Commerce, Sweden

1995                 Urban Glass Award for ”Outstanding Achievement in Glass”, NY, U.S.A.

1995                 Prince Eugen’s medal for ”Outstanding Achievement in Arts”, Sweden

2001                          Visionaries Award 2001, Museum of Art and Design, New York USA

2002                          Honorary doctorate, University of Växjö, Sweden

2003                 Honorary Doctor of Philosophy. University of Växjö, Sweden

2004                          Award in recognition of The Promotion of Contemporary Glass, Art in the world.

                         Museum Del vidrio Monterrey, Mexico

2004                          The Wilson award. New Orleans. USA

2005                          Gold medal, Royal Academy of Science, Stockholm, Sweden

2008                 the Libensky Award              


Selected Public Collections

 Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, NY. USA.

HM de Young Museum, San Francisco, USA

Yokohama Art Museum, Yokohama, Japan.

The state Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Russia.

Museum of Arts and Design, NY, NY. USA.

The Art Institute .Chicago USA

National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden.

VIDA Museum, Sweden. Permanent wing.

Everson Museum, NY. USA.

Dusseldorf Museum of Fine Arts, Germany.

Indianapolis Art Museum, Indianapolis. USA

Trondheim Art Museum. Norway.

National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. Japan.

Absolut Collection. NY.NY. USA

National Museum of Art. Tokyo. Japan.

The Prescott Collection at Pacific First Centre. Seattle, USA.

Detroit Art Institute, Detroit, MI, USA.

Yokohama Art Museum. Yokohama. Japan.

The Powerhouse Museum. Sydney. Australia.

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe. Hamburg. Germany.

Mint Museum of Art and Design. Charlotte, NC, USA.

Museo de Vidrio. Monterrey. Mexico.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.


Selected Publications

2008            Drury, John. Glass Quarterly, Review, Spring, No. 110, pg. 62 

2002            Kangas, Matthew. Somna Vakna, University of Washington Press, Seattle

1998            Glass Eats Light. Gunnar Lindquist Carlson's förlag, publisher

1997            Rådström, Niclas. Headbook, Kamras, Kamras Publisher

1995            Nilsson, Peter. Anod, Norstedts förlag, Sweden

Fiat Lux, (book on the altarpiece for Växjö Cathedral) Carlsson Bokförlag,               Stockholm, Sweden