Anna Ehrner, born 1948 in Danderyd is a Swedish designer and glass artist. She has also worked as a teacher at Konstfack. Anna Ehrner is an experimental and frugal stylist who is characterized by her simple but powerful design language and her ability to achieve great color splendor with a sparse use of colors. Colored veils inside the glass mass have become a special feature of Ehrner, as has the curling glass found in the Basket and Energy series. Anna is behind several sales successes such as the tableware Line and the bowl series Contrast and more recently Basket and Cup Cake. ”For me, the cabin is the creation. Here the glass is born, shaped and lives. I want to take care of the glass's own life, work with it and not against it. Follow the glass mass, the power, which cannot be curbed, but at the same time see the simple and subtle. ”
It is the softer side of glass that Anna Ehrner wishes to capture. She retrieves veils and waves from the floating molten glass, and it continues to move despite the fact the mass has hardened. Anna Ehrner is the movement. And she is looking for something that does not exist.
She kneels in the workshop with a group of craftsmen surrounding her and sketches on the cement floor with a piece of chalk. The movements are large and quick. She points and explains using her whole body. A new vase is in production and samples are coming forth. The vase is quite high and transparent purple. The form’s design is typical of Anna Ehrner. A simple and clean form with a pronouced appendage. A message, a marking and above all, movement. This time the shape is of a winding, irregular clear glass mesh that creeps up the vase. This particular model is already pre-booked by the legendary Bloomingdales in New York City and will soon be given a name.
This year marks 40 years since a young and recently graduated Anna Ehrner began att Kosta Boda.
- I never grow tired of it! She says.
She describes her task.
-It is to produce a clean and simple form that shows what glass can offer. And then I let the glass flow freely where I dare.
She loves to experiment and is not afraid to push the limits. Sometimes she even sways too much.
- Then I just take a few steps back and know exactly where I need to stop the next time.
Looking for something that does not exist
- I am not really a craftsman, she says.
The driving force is not in the hands, but rather in the joy of creation and in her need to express herself. She wants to discover new things. Develop techniques. Experiment.
- I am looking for things that do not exist. But that I think should exist. And then I try to create them.
She has done this ever since she was a child. As far back as she can remember she has been busy building various things. Anna Ehrner is the second youngest in a family of five children. All girls.
- Mom was incredibly creative, Anna explains, but her area of expertise lay mostly within the rhelm of the home. Dad was a great problem solver.
Seemingly, Anna has inherited the best of both of them.
The parents came up with various activities to encourage Anna and when she was 13 years old she received a pottery wheel. Eventually she could sit in her basement and make those bowls and cups that she wanted to have. This is how it was with everything. If she was missing something, she would immediately try to create it. The material did not matter.
- The clothes that I wanted did not exist, so I sewed them.
She made jewelry, wove carpets, made her own shoes and even sewed a leather jacket. She worked with textiles, leather, paper, cardboard, yarn, paint, metal as well as clay and everything else that was available.
When Anna got a little older she attented a summer course in ceramics and afterwards applied to a ceramics and glass education at Konstfack (Sweden’s largest university of arts, crafts and design). She was accepted on the first try.
Vallien was strict
The head teacher of ceramics’ name was Bertil Vallien.
- He was a very good teacher, says Anna. But incredibly strict. If you did not show up at eight o’clock sharp, you didn’t need to show up at all according to him.
Vallien recommended her for an assistant’s position with Ann Wolf. After six months Anna knew that glass was what she wanted to work with. She had found her material and loved working in the glassworks. She was invited to stay. Newly graduated and happy, she was full of strength and creativity.
However, it all started with a disappointement.
Back then, about 40 years ago, Kosta Boda operated a number of different companies, such as the Boda miljön (environment), Boda Nova, Kostalampan (lamps) and Boda smede (forging). Now they wanted to sell Kostalampan to make way for a new boutique with self-service. They would have some competition from Orrefors who had just opened. Here, people went around with large shopping carts and plucked bargain glass themselves at reasonable prices. Kosta Boda did not want to be outdone. However, they could not find any buyers for the lamp company. If they could only produce a lamp that was a big seller it would make everything easier. CEO at the time, Erik Rosén, was a man with immense creativity. During this period, there were only male designers and he saw an opportunity in Anna.
- You are a woman, he said, you could come up with some nice lamp that appeals to people? He believed a design with a feminine touch would fulfill the demand.
A darn lamp
Anna was saddened and deeply disappointed. She had taken for granted that she would be working in the glassworks and wanted nothing else. Then the boss comes along and thinks that she is going to create a darn lamp. She tried to protest, but Rosén was persistent.
- If you succeed with this I promise you can continue with glass afterwards, he said.
She would accept and decided that she would see it as a challenge instead. Up to this point, Kostalampan almost exclusively produced lamps in various types of metals. This included such lamps as Hinken and Comet, which are now classics.
Anna wanted to use other materials.
- I wanted to make something in warmer natural materials in contrast to the cold hard metal. However, not in the feminine way that Rosén had probably envisioned. Something fluffy with ruffles and lace.
It ended up being a body of two rings made of bent wood, and between them a tight steady canvas with thick seams. The skirt or bell-shaped cup was named the Anna lamp. It was an immediate success. This was especially true in public places that always needed large quantities. Anna Ehrner had created a big seller and Ateljé Lyktan bought Kostalampan. Kosta Boda oppened a boutique with self-service and Anna had proven herself. Mr Rosén knew what he was doing.
- The lamp became my ticket to glass, she says.
A pause from the functional
Anna Ehrner has a proven ability for success. To create glass that appeals to the masses without ever having to compromise her own taste or intuitive sense.
- I personally have to like what I am creating, otherwise it will not turn out good.
A few examples of her classic successes. The “Line" glass, is a simple design with a surface-mounted glass string, which loops around the bowl in a one and three quarter revolution. The “Line" was an instant hit and everyone at the glassworks was delighted by the fact that this would guarantee at least another months worth of work. Today, the “Line" has broken all the records. It has been produced for over thirty years and has even been represented at the Louvre in Paris.
Other examples of successful glass are the “Atoll" and “Contrast" series. With their tinted veils, these also show Anna Ehrner’s inventive ability. The technique of achieving this colored veil effect in the glass is her own personal innovation.
Sometimes, however, she needs to get away from the utility glass and take a pause from functionality.
- It’s nice to just ignore practicality sometimes, she says. Not think about whether it is worth it or not. Just dive in and go wild.
One of Anna’s sculptures is called “Meditation". It possesses a special ability to leave the viewers in awe. It awakens something. The sculpture consists of a round arc, approximately 30cm wide, with sections of frosted glass. The interior is bowl-shaped, like a round cradle. Within, lying completely still, rests a globe of clear glass. It sits there as though it was waiting for something. You almost need to refrain from the urge to reach out and touch the sphere. Just a little knudge to get it moving. Have it roll back and forth in its cradle. The urge is so great that the people in the glass shop had to put a sign on it saying “Do not touch the sculpture". The sign cannot be found on any other artwork.
Anna Ehrner has succeeded. She has gotten the hand to crave.
By Eva-Pia Worland (translated by Kosta Boda Art Gallery)