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Her World

Kosta Glassworks: How Swede It Is

October 12, 1986|JUDITH MORGAN | Morgan, of La Jolla, is a nationally known magazine and newspaper writer

The sun, a pale gold in the forests of southern Sweden, filtered through alleys of beech, elm and fir on that September day when light and dark shared equal time, when the year was poised between the extremes of the Midnight Sun and the looming dusk of winter.

I was driving east of Vaxjo toward the magical Kingdom of Glass, following a two-lane country road that unwound like a taffeta ribbon to gift-wrap tall trees and still ponds.

For me, the moment was special, a pilgrimage to the shrines of the glassmakers of Kosta Boda and Orrefors, the birthplace of the wine goblets on my dining table, and of the etched bowls that hold walnuts near my hearth at Christmastime, and fire bursts of white spider mums in autumn.

Crystal of Czars

Kosta, founded in 1742, is Sweden's oldest glassworks, one of 16 that shimmer in the woods between Vaxjo and Kalmar. In the airy Kosta Museum I marveled at the crystal of czars, emperors and kings. Nearby, I marveled at the sure, strong craftsmanship of modern glass-masters who blow sweetly into long rods stubbed with molten glass, as if they were playing bassoons.

A Swedish friend interrupted my reverie. "There is one of the Kosta designers," she said. "Perhaps we can say hello."

A slim, gray-haired man cocked his head as she approached, and then he walked our way.

"This is Bengt Edenfalk," she said.

His eyes sparkled behind steel-rimmed spectacles. In a long sweater of mountain blue, he looked fit for the slopes of winter. He is one of Kosta's 10 designers, an artist who has worked with glass for 30 years.

"What are you working on now?" asked an English voice behind me.

"I am sorry," he said politely. "But it is a secret."

I stepped forward and shook his hand. I told him that his prism candlesticks grace my life.

"Could you tell me when your new design will be in the shops?" I asked.

"Of course," he said with a smile. "I should think February."

"Would it be possible for me to know if it is a vase--or a glass--or a bowl--so that I could look for it next year?"

He stroked his beard, and took my elbow.

"It is a vase. Come. I will show you."

Mass of Molten Glass

He led me past fiery furnaces to a small workbench and pulled out two pages of sketches: a vase drawn in vivid hues of crimson, blue and green. Then he pointed toward a mass of molten glass that was pulled from the fire and turned in the air as a giant of a man breathed into it. A blood-red cylinder, perhaps 10 inches long, was held before Edenfalk.

His eyes read it swiftly, then there was a shake of the head. Something was not right. Perhaps the proportion, the thickness, the color.

Another long tube topped with glass was pulled and shaped and brought to the master. He studied it carefully, then unleashed a smile of sheer joy.

"Just one thing more," I said before departing. "When did you first see this design attempted in glass?"

He straightened his arm to see the watch below his sweater cuff.

"It was 11 o'clock," he said.

It was now 11:32.

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