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Style, innovation & equality

A challenge to evolve glass and glass production

Prominent Swedish designer Mattias Stenberg tells the story about how he fell in love with glass at the age of seven, where his latest exclusive glass collection aims to bring back a time when craft was the standard and not an exception.

Words: Johan Magnusson

Designer Mattias Stenberg’s relationship with glass and iconic Kosta Boda started at the age of seven. Growing up in the north of Sweden and grounded from flying a couple of years due to troubles with his ears they got in the car and drove south for summer vacation.

— The first year we ended up in Småland, "The crystal county", he says. I fell in love with the drama of glass production, the fire, and heat. But, more importantly, with the material. I still remember clearly when I found a dumpster with discarded glass outside one of the hot works. In it were these amazing amorph creatures of melted glass, and the love and passion was instant.

Mattias Stenberg is the engineer that, over almost 20 years, became a management consultant that became an architect and designer.

— I guess I have a need to always evolve and move forward, he says. An ”itch” that works as my propeller through life. Today I run a mixed creative practice in Stockholm focusing on mainly architecture and design of furniture and glassware.

The years passed and Stenberg was trying his wings in other fields, until one day when he sat down to design his very first product, a glass lamp called ”Demi” [now in production by Design House Stockholm, Ed’s note].

— This rekindled the flame and I started thinking a lot about glass again. At the end of one of the very first formal meetings with Kosta Boda I got the question if I maybe had something ”difficult” in mind; ”Something that only we at Kosta Boda can make?”. It was a fleeing question, the kind you throw out as you leave a meeting. Perhaps not even conscious or seriously intended. Nevertheless, this is the moment when I felt I had found my ”mission” within Kosta Boda. Namely to try and push the envelope, to challenge old truths and to work towards renewing the perception of what glass and glass art should look like and be produced today, says Stenberg, continuing,

— The result of that question was my very first product for them, the ”Septum” vases. A play with the old incalmo technique, but with our own twist. The success was instant and it created a very good creative atmosphere for continued experimentation and eventually new products.

After his work restoring Voice Furniture to its former glory, he describes the new Redux collection for Kosta Boda as a way a summary, or a condensation, of his work with the company over the past couple of years.

— I wanted the collection to be about this common ”mission” of ours, namely to challenge and push ourselves. To evolve glass and glass production.

”Redux” in itself means to ”restore” or ”bring back”, where Stenberg describes many things that he wanted to bring back through the collection.

— A simpler glass expression for one. The reduced materiality driven expression of the old masters; Tapio Wirkkala, Ingeborg Lundin and Timo Sarpaneva to name a few. But I also wanted to bring back a time when craft was the standard and not an exception, and a time when glassware also could be viewed as ”art”.

— An evolved series of Septum vases and urns is part of this collection, and of course they are always extra close to my heart. But I also started experimenting with non-functional objects and the ”Composition” and ”Seasons” pieces are examples of this. Up until I started working on this collection I had always viewed myself as a hard core functionalist, a designer and not and artist. But I guess we all have to find our media, our outlet, before our inner artist springs to life. To me glass was this media, and all of a sudden there was this urge to simply create. With the only mission to create objects that evoked feelings and emotions for the beholder.

With a constant flow of new ideas to be explored and experiments to be made his work for Kosta Boda continues.

— And this is the beauty of glass production. You have an idea, you go into the hot works and you make the idea into a reality, all during the course of a day. Glass is immediate in that sense. More concretely we are now working on a number of new pieces that we hopefully will have reason to speak more about in a few months time. A bit of a cliff hanger there...

— I really enjoy having a mix of architecture, furniture and glass projects going. So that will not change. Right now I am also working on two separate exhibitions that will launch early next year. It is all hush hush at the moment, but keep an eye out for this. &