The sea, the water and glass are related childhood loves for Erika Lagerbielke. The feeling of swimming and diving, with reflections, movements, the play of light and optical phenomena have left traces on her style as a glass designer – one of Sweden’s most experienced and respected, with a successful 40-year career at Orrefors behind her.
Lagerbielke was born and raised in Stockholm, where she still lives and works. She is from a family with strong artistic and aesthetic traditions. Her mother, Gunilla, was a successful textile artist, and later the head of the University of Arts, Crafts & Design, and her father, Lars, was a graphic designer. Erika’s artistic interests were awakened early – as was her particular passion for glass as a material.
“We rented a house on Gotland when I was little. It had a veranda with stained glass – red, green and blue. I was only four years old, but I was completely fascinated by the fact that you could see the whole world in different colors through the window panes.”
Erika tried glassblowing already while studying industrial design at the University of Arts, Crafts & Design. She was immediately captivated by the hot, amorphous material. After taking a summer class at the Orrefors glass school, she decided to leave the handicraft to the studio’s glassblowers and cutters, in order to concentrate on design. She later received a scholarship to work at the glassworks. Her graceful, elegant style and natural feel for glass led to a position at Orrefors while she was still a student.
Erika Lagerbielke has become known in Sweden and internationally primarily for her sets, especially her wine glasses, with classic collections such as Intermezzo, Merlot, Difference, More and Beer. “I’ve always been fascinated by the sensory experience of glass, the feel, the balance of holding it in your hand as the drink meets your mouth.”
Erika Lagerbielke has held acclaimed exhibitions of both her utility and art glass in Sweden and around the world over the years. Her designs are multi-award-winning and she has garnered particular praise for her approach to combining clear and colored glass. Her breakthrough collection, Intermezzo from the mid-80s, with its encased drop of blue glass, is generally recognized as an innovation and a milestone in glass design.
Erika Lagerbielke’s special commissions have included unique ceremonial objects, such as the Hook of Sigfrid for the Diocese of Växjö, Linnaeus University’s vice-chancellor chain, a baptismal font bowl for Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, and the wedding set for Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, a gift from the Swedish Parliament and government in 2010. Erika Lagerbielke has been a professor at Linnaeus University since 2005, where she teaches and conducts research part-time.
In spring 2022 at Galleri Glas in Stockholm, Erika is presenting the exhibition A Blue Planet, in which she unites the elements of glass and the sea, water. The pieces in the collection Losing Control/Gaining Control are sculptural vessels inspired by swells and waves. The collection By Seven Streams consists of drop-shaped sculptures with cut surfaces that reflect light, like the sun playing across the flat surface of the ocean.
“The exhibition is about my own and everyone’s relationship to water, on many levels,” says Lagerbielke. “Water and glass are closely connected; glass is a supercooled liquid. I’ve always loved the ocean and I’ve reflected more deeply in my mind on water as a vulnerable, priceless resource. Over seventy percent of the Earth is water. That’s why the planet is blue when viewed from space.”
Soft, moving shapes and a deep sea blue background, complemented by warm shades of orange and reddish yellow are consistent qualities of her new art glass collections. “Blue has a continuous presence in my work and my design,” says Erika. “Orange and red are the sun, of course. The colors are inspired by the ocean throughout the day.”
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