three hundred years of collectable glass in one day

The Cambridge Glass Fair



february 2016

Form,function and the midnight sun

February 2016 brings us an exhibition of Scandinavian glass: specifically the glass of some of prolific, talented and innovative designers of the twentieth century from Sweden and Finland.

Drawn from a private collection amassed over a long period, this exhibition sets out to illustrate how the approach to design in these two countries varied: on the one hand we see the cool, functional Swedish style and sometimes perhaps, on the other, the more 'fun' attitude of the Finns.

The image below right shows three decanters by Kaj Franck for Nuutajarvi, Finland, and they are perfect examples of this approach.

'Cockerel' and 'Kremlin Bells' decanters by Kaj Franck for Nuutajaarvi

Below, the owner of this collection explains how and why he and his wife became first interested and then passionate about collecting these pieces. We are delighted to have the opportunity to share some of their collection with them.

'We have been collecting Scandinavian glass for 30 years, with delight, passion and, perhaps, obsession. The beginnings of the appreciation of the glass would have been my wife's 60’s quotidian pieces and gifts of Wirkkala non-art glass from her family.

Our first proper ‘collection’ acquisitions were purchased from John Delafaille at Detling: three fine Swedish Vases. Our fascination with glass made us want to learn more about it and prompted us to visit Scandinavia, first to Kosta, Afors and Orrefors glassworks in southern Sweden and then on to Finland, to the museums, the Nuutajarvi and Iittala factories and, specifically, Riihimaki. Our interest in glass and the beauty and culture of Scandinavia has resulted in annual visits.

Swedish glass had an immediate attraction because of its dazzling technique, e.g. the complexity of graal, the absolute finesse and skill of the engraved works and the overall superb refinement and elegance of the design. The sophistication and wit of designers such as Vicke Lindstrand put the ‘art’ in art glass.


Vases by Ernest Gordon and Sven Palmqvist

Finnish glass has been a slow burner and has become our collecting focus. Its appeal lies in the consistent good use of form, the basis of design, and also the very democratic approach to usage: glass for everyman, ergonomic yet beautiful. The integral feel to the design is totally “Finnish”: form and texture from nature as in Tapio Wirkkala’s works; volume and form as seen in Finnish architecture and as found in Eliel Saarinens’ National Romantic style or Alvar Aalto’s air and light-filled spatial concepts. These also have an aesthetic resonance in Timo Sarpaneva’s and Kaj Franck’s work.

Later in our chronological glass journey we’ve searched out the colourful and fantastical visions of the high-spirited designers, like Erkki-Tapio Siiroinen, Oiva Toikka and Nanni Still, who nevertheless always kept the touchstone of form in their art.

So much of the long-lasting interest has been maintained by the constant searching, digging through periodicals and books, checking the connections to other art forms and historical points and taking in the feel of each country’s surroundings, and being aware of the proliferation of good design and how it relates to the art of glass. We hope that we will convey the joy we have found in our experience of collecting from Scandinavia.'


a few of the exhibition highlights and an image of the exhibition

  • Iceberg bowl by Tapio Wirkkala for Iittala; No. 3827, 1956-69.
  • Bamboo vase by Oiva Toikka for Nuutajarvi; 1966.
  • Kremlin Bells decanter by Kaj Franck for Nuutajarvi; 1957-68.
  • Apple vase by Ingeborg Lundin for Orrefors; 1957.


Scandinavian Glass Exhibition