From Iceland — The Islanders: Blowing Glass and Minds

The Islanders: Blowing Glass and Minds

Published March 1, 2023

As we step into Anders Vange’s studio on a crisp January morning, the temperature may be below freezing outside, but things are definitely heating up in here. With his trusty furnaces and tools at the ready, Anders transforms molten glass into mesmerising creations with an ease of a magician. It all seems almost effortless, but behind every enthralling piece of glass art is years of experimentation and craftsmanship. Here’s how Anders pulls beauty from the fire.

Black Squiggle

I’m a second generation glassblower. I started when I was around 15. I would come home from school and make small birds and glass balls and other things. When I was 18, I went to a glass school in Birmingham, England. I travelled a lot, working in different glass studios. I went to the United States and different glass studios in Denmark. I also worked at my father and mother’s glass studio in the north of Denmark.

I moved to Iceland half a year ago and rented this glass studio in Kjalarnes in November. My girlfriend is from Iceland. We spent eight years in Denmark, and then we decided to move here. We have two children, so it was a process of moving everybody here. 

All the glass I’m using is recycled. I pick it up from the window company Íspan once a week and bring it back here to my glass studio. I smash it into smaller pieces and wash it just to make sure that there’s no stones, sand or anything that I don’t want to have in the glass. Then I fill up the furnace with smashed window glass. It takes around twelve hours for the glass to be clean again and get rid of most bubbles. You can buy glass that will be completely clear, but this window glass will always have a greenish tone and small bubbles here and there. 

People think you need to have really good lungs to blow glass, but that’s not true. When the glass is warm, it blows out really easily. When it’s cold it stiffens up and you cannot blow into it anymore.”

I try to design my glass so that it fits with the window glass. I’m not trying to work against it, I’m trying as much as possible to make glass designs that fit this particular glass. 

I think at some point, I’ll melt other colours. I’ve started to collect glass bottles from home, bottles people bring in and some from restaurants. At some point I would like to do a green batch, like a beer bottle green.

Branching out from stems

It’s not only wine glasses that I make — this is just the first step of my process. I cannot go from making wine glasses one day to making candle holders the other day. It has to be a continuous process for it to work perfectly.

I’m doing smaller stuff just now to get started, but I would like to advance a little bit as I get to know the glass and this studio and do bigger things — maybe even turn on some of the bigger ovens in here. At some point, I would like to do bigger vases and artwork that is more complicated.

Photo by Art Bicnick

With these glasses, everything is unique. There won’t be two stems that are the same, which makes these special compared to other glasses — some will be thick and some will have more curves. Only the height will be the same. I don’t always have a finished goal when I start, I just go with the flow, to make it nice and symmetrical. 

(Not) suffering for his art

Many people ask if I burn myself. I don’t do that very often. People also think you need to have really good lungs to blow glass, but that’s not true. When the glass is warm, it blows out really easily. When it’s cold it stiffens up and you cannot blow into it anymore. 

I’m inspired a lot by old glass-work and craftsmanship. Because I’ve done glass all my life, every time I see a glass piece, I get inspired by that. For example, now with window glass, I get caught up with what I can do to make this work. I am thinking about it at night — how can I make it work and how can I make the final glass products look more fluid. It’s very technical for me. I find my inspiration in glass materials and take ideas from earlier work, especially old factory work.

If you want to become a glassblower, you have to learn the very basics before you get started. Getting the glass out of the furnace can take several weeks just to get the first small little blob. Then you have to start rolling it and sanding it — it’s much more work than people think. It’s a really long process.

Take a peek inside Anders’ studio and watch him in action on the Grapevine’s YouTube channel.


The Islanders is our series where we interview interesting people in Iceland about their unique lives. Know someone we should speak to? Email grapevine@grapevine.is

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