Fire is at the epicentre of this female platform for glassblowers. Their biggest aim is to change norms and to pass down an age-old tradition. Only this time it’s more playful and edgy.
—Jonna Dagliden Hunt
A car trailer rolls into a suburb of Stockholm. It is not the normal one filled with junk – this trailer is painted in pink with unicorns and large flames that burns through the word BOOM!. It looks like something from a children’s story; a treasure chest filled with… glass, an industrial furnace and tools for blowing. The mobile glass studio ”Spajsy” by the Swedish female glass collective BOOM! was in fact created to make the age-old Swedish glass tradition more accessible to children and teenagers.
”We wanted to show how the process works, create an interest in the material, and give kids and teenagers a chance to try it out, especially in socioeconomically vulnerable areas. We also wanted to prove to ourselves that we can build a furnace from scratch. So we took a course in welding, laid the bricks on the inside, and put isolation around it,” says Matilda Kästel who together with Ammy Olofsson, Nina Westman, Erika Kristofersson Bredberg and Sara Lundkvist make up BOOM!.
From hundreds of glassworks in Småland, the epicenter of Swedish glass tradition, in the 1900s, to 13 remaining. Now a new generation of glass artists are renewing the tradition.
”We want to make glass as a material more available,” says Kästel whose family has a long tradition in glassblowing, with the roots in Germany. She is taking it further by adding new energy and perspectives to the craft.
”Lots of glassworks are fighting for their survival, not least due to rising production costs. It’s therefore more important than ever to share our craft.”
The hot, glowing properties of fire, Kästel explains, is the starting point for it all since all furnaces and torches are lit with it.
From melting the glass, to forming the glass with wooden blocks or newspaper and heating it again in the glory hole.
”It’s an incredible material to work with. Everything is so incredibly hot. Fire is always present which forces you to be present as well. You need to think about how you move and what you wear,” she says and adds that glass is so immediate – soft when you start working with it, and when the temperature cools down, very hard and sharp.
The smell of burnt newspaper, the hot temperature, the light in the glassworks. All senses are included in the process of blowing glass. ”There are lots of things that affect you sensorially that I miss if I don’t blow glass,” Kästel says.
Having met during art school, the five artists decided to join forces with a simple purpose: to break norms and traditions associated with the craft. ”We strive for more playfulness when we meet with and work with glass. This includes using technology to create moving installations. There is so much to explore,” Kästel says, and highlights that each of them has separate identities.
While Kästel’s sculptures questions the role of the body, and uses contrasting materials, such as silicon, to make the glass even more distinct, Sara Lundqvist is inspired by spirituality and science fiction when she creates her poetic pieces. Erika Kristofersson Bredberg loves the process of blowing glass and the patterns it leaves behind, Nina Westman is interested in capturing the fragile nature of humans with the fragile nature of glass – and Ammy Olofsson is inspired by exploring contrasts such as traditional craft and new technology.
The group also creates artworks together for specific shows they get invited to, such as recent shows at the North Norwegian Arts Center, and at The Glass Factory in Boda, Småland.
What binds the artists together is their shared passion that is crucial to be able to continue.
”If there is something you really need as an artist it is a drive. You need an ambition to move forward. For me that represents a certain spark that you early on in life realise you have,” Kästel says. ”We need each other to support that”.
BOOM! is a female separatist group exclusively working in glass that consists of the artists Matilda Kästel, Ammy Olofsson, Nina Westman, Erika Kristofersson Bredberg and Sara Lundkvist. Together they want to share their skills and experiences and develop ideas, mount exhibitions and enter collaborations.
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