Mattias Stenberg is the architect, engineer, researcher and product designer who found a material in glass that forced him to ease his high demand for control and precision, in order to create more freely.
“Glass was the first medium that got me to explore and let go of the need for safety, to create a feeling, a sensation,” says Mattias. “When I make a piece of furniture, I can control everything down to the smallest detail, through long production processes and tests. With glass, you can only control maybe 70%. The crucial step lasts five seconds, and then it has to sit there. For me, that was liberating. I’m not a storyteller; I never will be. But glass got me to want to sing the material’s praises in something that, for the first time, I dared to call artistic expression.”
Mattias Stenberg grew up in Umeå, surrounded by nature, “with people who fish, pick cloudberries and hunt moose,” as he says. He moved to Stockholm where he studied to be an architect and an engineer at the Royal Institute of Technology, where he was also a researcher before founding his studio in 2010. The legacy of Norrland has a tangible presence in his design.
“I’ve lived in Stockholm for a long time now, but while you may be able to take the boy to the city, you can never take Norrland out of the boy. Orange lava against a gray cliff – those things stay with you. I like to say that I am Sarek meets Moroso – that I exist at that intersection.”
Mattias Stenberg encountered glass early on – at the age of eight, while on a trip with his family to the Kingdom of Crystal in Småland, which made a big impression. Perhaps this memory played a role in 2013, when Mattias was hired by Kosta Boda to try working as a glass designer for the first time. He immediately felt at home among the master glassblowers and the other craftspeople in the studio – an environment that may seem intimidating to many artists and designers.
“There are different loves, but a great deal comes from intuition. I have that relationship with glass. As an engineer, sometimes you think you have an intuitive feel for a material, beyond temperatures and technical properties. I am convinced that glass and I have that relationship. When I came to Kosta, I was so cavalier that I immediately dared to challenge what you expect from glass, from the very beginning.”
Mattias Stenberg’s background as an architect and engineer is evident in his glass art. His sculptures have an architectural, sometimes monumental quality in the convergence between glass and materials like stone and steel. Even if the glass evades complete control, his glass art is also based on precision.
“For me as an engineer, it’s natural to put the material first. For me, form always comes second. I think that I can sing the praises of glass better if I get to frame it with other materials – but glass is always the star. It’s interesting to cross blown glass with sturdy materials, where we can control every dimension down to the tenth of a millimeter.”
Mattias Stenberg’s sources of inspiration include abstract, minimalist artists such as Mark Rothko, Donald Judd and Ellsworth Kelly. He also mentions Danish architect and designer Finn Juhl, as well as the Italian glass artist Carlo Scarpa. His love of nature is expressed in his admiration for the nature-inspired master of design, Finnish Tapio Wirkkala, one of Mattias’ personal heroes. He is particularly inspired by Wirkkala’s classic 60s collection, Bolle for Venini.
In collaboration with Kosta Boda, Mattias Stenberg has developed his own technique, inspired by Wirkkala’s Bolle, which he has named Septum, where two blown-glass bodies are melted together. “I have a collector who calls the technique ‘the kiss,’” says Mattias. “Making it requires two glassblowers breathing in time together. There’s something very intimate about the process. The name comes from the membrane separating the two chambers of the heart from one another.”
Mattias Stenberg’s breakthrough as a glass artist was in 2018, with the “Redux” exhibition in the Bruno Mathsson Hall at Kosta Art Gallery where all of his unique pieces sold out on the opening day. He last exhibited at Galleri Glas in Stockholm in 2020. As a designer, he has won multiple prestigious international awards, such as the German Design Award, Good Design Award and Nordic Designer of the Year.
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