Blowing glass is for the brave; it’s hot, dirty, and intense. You need to work quickly and have strong lungs, I discovered during a September visit to Sweden’s Kingdom of Crystal, an area in Småland (southern Sweden) where glass factories, studios, and galleries have been bringing glass to life since 1742. Today it’s a thriving epicenter of creativity, where you’ll find all the glass and crystal you ever wanted, plus the chance to make some of your own.
Wondering about the difference between glass and crystal? They are made of the same material (liquid sand), but crystal has a higher lead content, which makes the product refract light (the prism you see when you hold crystal up to the light) and makes it more malleable, so it can be easily engraved and molded.
Come on a tour of the Swedish Kingdom of Crystal! You can blow glass, tour studios, shop, sleep, and eat with the themes of crystal and glass at the core:
Learn The Art of Glassblowing
“Blow harder!” Vera Einemo, a smiling young artist, told me as I huffed and puffed in the Kosta Glass Centre. Everything happened so fast. First Vera deftly fetched a glob of bright yellow molten glass from the glowing furnace and handed the long pipe to me. As I rolled it back and forth, Vera helped me shape the hot glass using a wet wooden cup and damp newspaper.
Next I blew down the tube into the glass, and a bubble formed inside. Vera added more glass and I spun it, but my vase came out lopsided. “No problem,” said Vera and heated the glass again. I spun it, more carefully this time, and my blue vase took shape. Vera popped it into a cooling oven, and two days later I picked up my slightly imperfect masterpiece.
Stora vägen 96
Please make reservations one week in advance of your visit
Price is 300-450 SEK
See Where Kosta Boda Glass is Made
This is where Kosta Boda makes its magic — from an Orrefors crystal gear shifter made exclusively for Volvo to sand-casted glass boats designed by Bertil Vallien. Here you can see glassblowers in a choreographed dance making stemmed wine glasses by hand or a team of craftspeople creating more elaborate pieces.
Stop in the Kosta Boda Art Gallery and purchase pieces by artists like Vallien or visit Kosta Outlet, which offers wares for more budget-minded shoppers.
Mon – Fr 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sat – Sun 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Entrance fee: 40 SEK
Explore the Glass Museum
“Glass tells a story,” says Maja Heuer, director of The Glass Factory, an interactive glass museum whose mission is to serve as a knowledge centre 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,” Maja said. In 2020, the Glass Art Society will meet in Sweden, an event Maja is already looking forward to.
36197 Boda Glasbruk
Mon & Tues Closed
Weds – Sun 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Entrance fee is 60 SEK
Visit the Studio of a Master
Down a quiet road lined with tall pines, you’ll find a hytte, or hut, where internationally reknown glass artist Micke Johansson makes his beautiful glass pieces.
Micke started at age 16 at iconic Swedish design brand Orrefors and became a master glassblower at 24. Two traditional techniques he often incorporates in his pieces are Graal (layering colors), and Ariel (using controlled air bubbles to create designs within the glass). “All glass you make from the inside out,” said Micke, who welcomes visitors to his hut and shop: “My door is always open.”
Shop Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri 11:00 am – 5:0 pm
Sat 10:00 am – 2:00 pm (except holidays)
Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Fri 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Weds 8:00 am – 11:30 am
Sat & Sun Closed
Enjoy the Kosta Boda Art Hotel and Spa
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. The room in which we stayed featured dramatic, humorous paintings, and glass vases by Ulrica Hydman Vallien.
Don’t miss the spa, where you’ll find an artful pool, sauna, and relaxation area. To achieve bliss, try the signature hot glass massage: warm glass disks are moved over your entire body.
Afterwards, sip an aquavit at the brilliant Glass Bar, where the 3.5 ton translucent cobalt bar makes you feel you’re surrounded by the sea. Linnéa Art Restaurant presents a tantalizing, artistic dining experience; definitely worthwhile as an end to your magical day.
Stora Vägen 2
Rooms start at 1500 SEK per night
Find out more about the Kingdom of Crystal.