Stories Told in Glass

Beginning July 1, 2018, I am featuring pieces from my personal collection of more than 400 pieces of engraved Scandinavian crystal, dating from the 1930's to the 1970's. Here's the story behind that collection.

Many years ago, when I was between math curriculum projects, I started an online vintage glass and pottery store. The hunt of collecting was fun, and I was learning about glass through out-of-print books and Internet research. Then some Swedish engraved crystal caught my eye, and I soon became a focused collector, buying only these unique works of art. Eventually, I taught myself how to bring cloudy old pieces back to brilliance, and I became a restorer, too. (The work is slow, tedious, and tiring, but worth it.)

Time passed, and I learned all about Åfors, Flygsfors, Alsterfors, and Orrefors... Boda, Kosta, Skruf, and Elme... Strömbergshyttan, Smålandshyttan, Ekenäs, and Eda... I studied Lindstrand, Gate, Hald, and Bergqvist... Bergh, Kallenberg, Walwing, and Strand. I read about copper wheel engraving, sand blasting, and pantograph etching. Clearly, this wasn't about a little online shop anymore. I had discovered a passion for this remarkable glass, and I knew I wanted to help others see its value again, too. It felt like a cultural mission, to honor my Swedish ancestry by bringing this important part of our artistic history back to the attention of modern glass collectors.

The more I learned, and the richer my collection grew, the more I knew I needed to share it. I researched Swedish museums and found the American Swedish Historical Museum (ASHM) in Philadelphia. We arranged a visit, and I brought some small pieces with me to show the director. As I unpacked each one, I told her its story. Each piece is made by hand - several hands, actually. Owning a group of them is truly owning an art collection. The pieces I have gathered were bought for birthdays and holidays, weddings and souvenirs - here and in Sweden. They were in peoples' homes (my grandmother and her sisters each had at least one vase on a shelf) and were spoken of almost reverentially..."Careful, it's Orrefors..."

The ASHM focuses on the experience of the Swedes in America, and engraved glass was very popular here. Many companies exported far more to the US than what was sold in Sweden, especially during the post-war years. That makes sense because first-generation Americans were accumulating wealth and were happy to buy things that spoke of Sweden. A Strömberg descendent told me that sales to America kept the business afloat throughout the 50's and 60's and into the 70's.

I had planned to make a bequest in my will, but while visiting the ASHM glass collection, I began to think, "Couldn't I donate them sooner than when I die?" That would mean I could help the brand new curator with the task of identifying and cataloging them all. The director was thrilled, and soon after, she and the curator came to our home to see my collection and choose about 100 pieces from the 200 or so pieces I had assembled for their selection. We spent about six hours looking, talking, wrapping, tagging, and packing. In March, 2018, the ASHM opened its newly-refurbished Linnaeus–Kalm Gallery, showcasing amazing engraved glass art.

Now I have come to the point where I need to let some more of my glass go. If you buy a piece from me, you can be sure that it is authentic, and I will share everything I know about it. I hope you enjoy looking, and that you take the time to read the "stories told in glass."

Visit the ASHM!

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