Heart of glass - how BOOM! make an old craft more accessible
Publish date: 25 January 2021
The first week of October in Stockholm is STHLM Craft Week; a week where galleries, art spaces, workshops, and museums celebrate the past, present, and future of Swedish handicrafts; sewing, silver working, pottery, weaving, glass working, and much more. And in some cases, visitors will get a more hands-on experience.
BOOM! describe themselves as a female separatist group for artists working with glass. Essentially, they strive to make glass working more accessible, to break old norms and traditions associated with the craft, and create a platform and meeting place for women on the glass scene. One way to make the art of glass working more approachable is to actually let people try it out. And that’s exactly what BOOM! has been doing with the help of 'Spajsy'; a trailer repurposed into a mobile glassworks and furnace.
"People are both surprised and glad when our brightly colored glassworks-on-wheels rolls up in their neighborhood", says BOOM!’s Matilda Kästel. "And those who try a hand at glass working find it very exciting - many seem surprised that hot glass actually has the same consistency as syrup".
Spajsy has made pit stops to numerous festivals and events and will work its furnace in Hägersten during Sthlm Craft Week, all week-long. Visit Stockholm had a chat with BOOM!-member Matilda Kästel about the origins of Spajsy, and the Swedish glass world in general.
Where did the idea for Spajsy and your workshops come from?
"Glass is an inaccessible material for many people. It requires a proper workshop with an industrial furnace and a three-phase electrical outlet. Most have never come in contact with real glass-working, other than on Skansen. We wanted to show how the process works, create an interest in the material, and give kids and teenagers a chance to try it out, especially in socioeconomically vulnerable areas. We also wanted to prove to ourselves that we can build a furnace from scratch. So we took a course in welding, laid the bricks on the inside, and put isolation around it".
Which norms and traditions do BOOM! want to change?
"Traditionally glassworks have been a male-dominated environment, characterized by machoism and competing on whoever can blow the biggest, heaviest, most technically advanced glass objects. In BOOM! we use glass as an artistic medium and want to open new ways of using the material. Most importantly we want to find new ways of working together; to organize, support each other and to cooperate on ideas, rather than compete against each other".
What would you say separates glass art from other art forms?
"There’s a tradition of relying on the unique properties of glass. It’s transparent, glitters when lit, and has the ability to display some fantastic colors. But we want the glass to have some content as well, for it to say something. To push the boundaries of glass in ways that perhaps wouldn’t be approved from a purely technical – or for that matter – esthetic standpoint. Examples of how we approach glass art are moving sculptures, glass computers, street art, and performance art with hot glass".
Is there anything that distinguishes Swedish glass and glass art? It has some renown after all, due to the glassworks in Småland for example.
"What put Swedish glass on the map, was the cooperation between artists and the glass industries in the 1920s with new imagery that gave glass a new dimension. Combined with a high level of craftsmanship. Nowadays, it’s innovation and diversity. There are just so many strong Swedish artists working with glass today".
Any great Stockholm tips you’d like to share? Any favorite cafés or shops, or simply your favorite place to visit?
"Kaffé 44, a vegan café, operated by a non-profit organization, is a great place for concerts and events. Clas Ohlson, Biltema, Bauhaus, and other hardware stores are good for inspiration. Creativity, in a way, is based on shrewd solutions to problems. Besides the materials we need, they often have good right solutions. Lilla Blecktornsparken and Bleck [an outdoor café on Södermalm] have a big green lawn, a wading pool, hammocks, a bar-restaurant, and an ice cream café. In other words, everything you need. If you want to see the BOOM!’s members art you’re also more than welcome to visit Blås & Knåda, Konsthantverkarna or Glasbolaget in Bro".
Who are BOOM!?
The BOOM!-collective currently has five members; Matilda Kästel, Ammy Olofsson, Nina Westman, Erika Kristofersson Bredberg and Sara Lundkvist. Their HQ is in Bro, just north of Stockholm, but their individual studios can be found all over the greater Stockholm area: from the artist spaces in Gustavsberg’s old factory to the newly opened glassworks Garage by the Sea on Fjäderholmarna.