Immerse yourself in the fragile beauty of art glass in Sweden.
Glass is evocative, fragile, exotic, and has been admired by humans since the first glass was created in Ancient Egypt. In Central Sweden in the province of Småland, you can immerse yourself in the fragile beauty of glass. Visitors to the region, known as the Kingdom of Crystal, can meet crafters, explore galleries, attend workshops, and stay in a design hotel where rooms are decorated by different artists and display unique art glass pieces.
Besides the hotel, there’s incredible shopping for glass lovers, delicious local cuisine, glass-blowing classes, and outdoor adventures. Last September my husband, Peter, and I visited the Kingdom of Crystal, where crafters have been making glass come to life since 1742. Today it’s a thriving epicenter of creativity, where you’ll find all the art glass you ever wanted—and, if you’re game, the chance to make some of your own.
Try Glass Blowing at Kosta Glass Centre
Watch the Molten Glass Take Shape Before Your Eyes.
Blowing glass isn’t for sissies. It’s hot, dirty, and intense, I discover, and you need to work quickly and have strong lungs.
“Blow harder!” says Vera Einemo, a smiling young artist who’s assisting me in the hot shop at Kosta Glass Centre. I’m huffing and puffing from atop a stool, blowing my first-ever piece of glass, a clear vase with a hint of blue.
Everything is happening so fast. First Vera deftly fetches a glob of bright yellow molten glass from the glowing furnace and hands the long pipe to me. I’m sitting in a specially designed chair, which allows me to roll the pipe back and forth in front of me—not very deftly, I might add—while Vera helps me shape the hot glass using a wet wooden cup and damp newspaper.
Next I climb onto the stool and blow down the tube into the glass (“Blow harder!”), and finally a bubble forms inside. Vera adds more glass, and I sit in the chair and roll the pipe, but my vase gets all lopsided.
“No problem,” says Vera and heats the glass again. I spin it, more carefully this time, and my blue vase takes shape. Vera pops it into a cooling oven, and two days later I pick up my creation. I feel like a new mom, proud as I can be of my slightly imperfect masterpiece.
Tour the Kosta Glassworks and See Glass Blowers Create Art
Don’t Miss Commissioned Pieces by Bertil Vallien and Lena Bergström
On the Kosta Boda campus we tour the Glassworks, where the magic takes shape, and see samples of their fine art glass—from an Orrefors crystal gearshifter made exclusively for Volvo cars to sand-casted glass boats designed by Bertil Vallien.
Peter and I stroll through the cavernous, warm building, where the hiss of blow torches mingles with the hum of the furnaces. In the background, we hear distant glass breaking, as a quality control staff member tosses defective products.
All around us glass blowers rotate in a choreographed dance as they create stemmed wine glasses by hand. In another area a team of craftsmen fashion more elaborate pieces. Many designers commission pieces to be made at the glassworks. A collection of large clear globes commissioned by Lena Bergström are waiting to be installed in a Stockholm exhibit called “Winter Garden.”
Want to take some art home? No problem. Stop in the Kosta Boda Art Gallery and purchase pieces by artists like Vallien and Bergström or visit Kosta Outlet, which offers wares for more budget-minded shoppers.
Visiting Artists Are Welcome at The Glass Factory
Makers Create Stories with Glass
“Glass tells a story,” said Maja Heuer, director of The Glass Factory, an experience-based, interactive glass museum in nearby Boda, whose mission is to serve as a knowledge center and creative meeting place for artists, designers, and visitors.
To that end, The Glass Factory is expanding its studio space and welcoming dozens of local and visiting artists. “The makers bring cultural energy and excitement—and tourists,” Maja said.
We wander through the hot shop, where glassblowers create colorful glass cylinders for an upcoming art installation. In 2020 the renowned Glass Art Society will meet in Sweden, an event Maja is already looking forward to.
Discover Mickejohans Konstglas in a Hut in the Woods
Micke Johansson Loves Working with Graal and Ariel Techniques
Peter and I drive through forests thick with pine. Someone we meet says this area of Sweden reminds him of Twin Peaks. But I don’t feel any sense of foreboding—except perhaps that winter will come soon blanketing these woods with thick snow.
We pull into the driveway of internationally known glass artist Micke Johansson’s compound, where he lives with his family, runs a gallery and shop, and blows beautiful glass pieces in his hytte, or hut.
When we enter the hut, Micke is busy blowing a commissioned piece for a designer named Matthias, who’s on hand to watch and marvel as his project takes shape beneath Micke’s skilled hands. It’s an elegant oval-shaped hanging lamp made of see-through powder-blue glass.
Micke started at age 16 at Orrefors and became a master glassblower at 24. “I can do almost everything,” said Micke, who loves solving problems. Two traditional techniques he often incorporates in his pieces are Graal, which is layering colors, and Ariel, which is using controlled air bubbles to create scenes and designs within the glass itself.
“All glass you make from the inside out,” says Micke, who welcomes visitors to his hut and shop: “My door is always open.”
Not far from Micke's is the town of Nybro, where a lovely cafe awaits. Cafe Hos Oss offers a cozy ambience and serves delicious, healthy Swedish cuisine along with salad, hot soup, and fresh baked bread. The popular spot is affordable and worth seeking out.
Sleeping with Art at Kosta Boda Art Hotel
Don’t Miss an Artful Meal at Linnéa Art Restaurant
Kosta Boda Art Hotel, a destination hotel and spa, opened across from Kosta Glassworks in 2009 and offers a unique opportunity to sleep in rooms designed by Swedish artists. Our room featured dramatic, humorous paintings and glass vases by Ulrica Hydman Vallien.
Peter relaxes in our room while I head to the spa. I take a dip in a gorgeous indoor pool featuring underwater glass, artsy décor, and soothing waterfalls. Through a wall of windows a gray, gloomy September day winds to a close, but inside I’m warm and cozy. Soon it’s time for my treatment: the spa’s signature hot glass massage. My therapist skillfully manipulates warm glass disks over my entire body. It’s heavenly, and I feel warm from the inside out.
Afterwards, Peter and I sip an aquavit at the brilliant Glass Bar. Its 3.5-ton translucent cobalt blue bar makes us feel as if we surrounded by the sea.
Linnéa Art Restaurant presents a tantalizing dining experience that wows all our senses. Art is everywhere including on our plates. The first course features char and salsify complemented by trout caviar—orange glassy orbs that pop like bubbles from the sea.
Our main course is smoky, earthy venison that evokes the call of the wild, surrounded by a colorful array of roasted vegetables. For dessert, a delicate bavorois with chocolate and caramel notes—perfect.
Kosta Lodge Promises Adventures in Nature
Try a Moose Safari or Fishing for Crayfish
One night we stay in the Kosta Lodge not far from the Glassworks. The lodge offers a more rustic experience, perfect for adventure seekers. Besides simple lodge rooms with comfy beds, self-catering cottages are also available for longer stays. Our lodge room is a bit small and basic, but it’s clean and comfortable.
For dinner, we’re just steps away from the property’s restaurant, where we dine in rustic Scandinavian ambiance. We enjoy the specialty of the house, an incredibly flavorful filet mignon delivered on a smoking hot lava stone with salty fries and salad on the side. A lovely Spanish red provides the perfect accompaniment.
We only stay one night, but I would love to come back and explore the region’s adventure options, including boating and ziplining. Staff at Kosta Lodge can help arrange nature experiences, ranging from a moose safari to fishing for crayfish. Or you can go for a peaceful hike in the nearby woods. Just look out for trolls!
Plan the Perfect Trip to the Kingdom of Crystal
Check Out These Must-See Attractions
Located about three hours northeast of Malmo, the Kingdom of Crystal is best enjoyed by car. You’ll love the cozy towns and beautiful nature. Book your lodgings and find out more at www.glasriket.se.
Kosta Glass Center and Kosta Glassworks
If you’ve always wanted to try glass blowing, now’s your chance. Find out more about glass blowing, hot herring shop, and tours of the glassworks at www.kostaglascenter.se.
The Glass Factory
Meet visiting artists, tour the museum of art glass, and learn about classes and workshops at www.theglassfactory.se.
If you want to see the master at work, call ahead or email to make sure Micke will be working in his hut when you visit. Find out contact details at www.mickejohankonstglas.se.
Cafe Hos Oss
Located in the Glassworks at Pukeberg, this darling cafe has a rustic charm and great food. Get directions and opening hours at www.cafehososs.se/english/
Kosta Boda Art Hotel
This world-class art hotel invites guests to luxuriate in its artsy vibe, enjoy its serene spa, and dine on delicious fare. Book your room at www.kostabodaarthotel.se
For budget-conscious travelers or those who pprefer a more rustic experience, stay at Kosta Lodge. You can arrange nature experiences and reserve your room or self-catering cottage at www.kostalodge.se.