The History of a Collection
The first piece of glass acquired by Duncan & Liz was a small Vicke Lindstrand vase with an engraved cat, bought in Cambridge, where they were both students, to celebrate the birth of their son in the 1960’s. The real start of their passion for glass occurred much later, during a holiday in Småland in 1976. To their surprise they found themselves in the midst of what was to become known as Glasriket, “The Kingdom of Glass”. The end of the 1970’s was a peak in the fortunes of the Swedish glass industry and Duncan & Liz have mementoes of many works which have now vanished.
Much of the collection of Swedish material was built up during annual visits to the art glass auctions held by Stockholms Auktionsverket in Hovmantorp and Kosta. Notable acquisitions in the auctions include several pieces from the classic age of Swedish glass making in the 1920’s - 1950’s: a Simon Gate bacchanalian decanter, an Edward Hald decanter of Susanna and the Elders and several Vicke Lindstrand pieces, including a large vase showing Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Later works include several graal pieces by Eva Englund, a number of works by Bertil Vallien, including one of his Voyager series and what is reputed to be his first commission, a 4m-wide wall-piece symbolising a pair of spectacles and sculptures by Kjell Engman, including flapper and medieval dresses, several nymphs and water sprites, leaping fish, sea eagles and cormorants from the Borderland (Gränslandet) series and fiddles and guitars from Rock on Fire. Other Swedish artists represented include Wilke Adolfsson, Ann Wolff, Göran Wärff, Mats Jonasson, Astrid Gate, Maja Cunningham and Lars Hellsten.
Back in Britain Duncan & Liz’s enthusiasm for glass led them to get involved in the local glass scene and Duncan became Chair of the Scottish Glass Society. Glass making in Britain has been through a transition which is similar to that happening in Sweden: the virtual disappearance of factory production and a proliferation of studio artists. A near neighbour, Alison Kinnaird, is probably the best-known glass artist in Scotland. Her 3.5-metre long piece Psalmsong is a feature of the new Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh and she has recently finished a large sponsors’ window commission for the National Portrait Museum. Duncan and Liz have a number of her panels and blocks in their collection. Another glass-making friend, Adam Aaronson, ran a short-lived gallery in Edinburgh in the 1980’s before moving to a studio-cum-gallery in Earl’s Court, London. Several examples of his free-blown work are in the collection. Other British-based artists represented include James Denison-Pender, Junko Eager, Sally Fawkes, Keiko Mukaide, Colin Reid, Nick Rutherford, Sally Scott and Nancy Sutcliffe. Two recent North American acquisitions from the 2012 show by the Guild of Glass Engravers include Lisabeth Sterling’s Wings with Seeds and Mark Raynes Robert’s Energy.
Why Johansfors? Duncan & Liz first visited Johansfors in the early 1980’s. They were struck by the beautiful setting of the Glasbruk along the Lyckebyån and were worried observers of the ups-and-downs experienced by the Glasbruk during the 1980’s-2010’s. In 2009 they took the opportunity of buying the house across from the Glasbruk in Bruksgatan which had been built in 1891 by Frans Oscar Israelsson, the first patron of Johansfors Glasbruk and hope to help to rejuvenate Johansfors as a centre for studio glass.