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
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.
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