With roots in ironmaking in the early 18th century, this Swedish company commenced production of bottle glass and cheap tableware in 1898. Today it is widely recognized as one of the best‐known representatives of Swedish art industry and epitomizes the tensions between craft ethos and mass‐production economies of scale. For much of the 20th century the company was renowned for its technical innovations and decorative aesthetic, producing both everyday household and artistic pieces. Conscious of heritage Orrefors established its own museum in 1957. Although master glassblowers were employed shortly before the First World War it was not until the arrival of two artists—Simon Gate in 1916 and Edvard Hald in 1917—prompted by the Swedish Society for Industrial Design, that the company began to gain an international reputation. Through their exploration of the Expressionist graal technique and a combination of Modernist forms with classical motifs, Gate and Hald's elegant engraved crystal designs increasingly attracted widespread critical acclaim. Having launched a school for craftsmen at the factory in 1924, with six Grand Prix awards Orrefors further consolidated its international reputation at the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels where many other fields of Swedish design also made a significant impact. The 1930 Stockholm Exhibition, with its emphasis on Functionalism, led to a re‐evaluation of the company's outlook. Hald became Orrefors's managing director from 1933 to 1944, during which time the innovative Ariel technique was introduced. Although such techniques continued to be explored by designers like Edvin Öhström and Vicke Lindstrand through the 1940s and 1950s there was a general post‐war move towards a clean, refined aesthetic. This was typified in the work of Nils Landberg whose Tulip glasses were awarded a gold medal at the Milan Triennale of 1957. The wider cultural and aesthetic shifts of the 1960s were reflected in the dynamic, colourful work of Gunnar Cyrén, whilst in the 1970s there was a marked shift towards sculptural, non‐functional designs as in the output of Eva Englund, whose work proved highly collectable. Furthering such tendencies the company began production of signed, limited edition art glass collections in 1988. In 1990 Orrefors merged with Kosta Boda and was taken over by Royal Copenhagen in 1997.
Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design — Industrial and Commercial Art.