Glass Techniques


This is one of the oldest techniques of glass decorating. The glass engraver gets a sketch or drawing from an artist, which he then draws onto the glass using chalk and adhesive ink. The sketch is then “fixed” with a clear layer of varnish, so that it stays in place and so that the surrounding surface is protected from the dust and emery powder solution that lubricates the engraving wheel. Orrefors´ engravers work with fixed copper wheels, which require great skill, patience and endurance of the workmen. Some of the most spectacular pieces of engraved glass, like the Parispokalen, took hundreds of hours to make.


Cutting glass is similar to engraving glass, but there are some significant differences. The patterns are different and the equipment used also. For cutting, iron wheels are used instead of copper ones, and the use of grindstones and diamond cutters are common. Cut glass is by far more commercially sold than engraved glass, since it can easily be produced on a large scale and its geometric shapes and patterns have are appealing to a wide audience.


Knut Bergkvist developed the graal technique in 1916. He was inspired by the French art nouveau glass of Daum and Gallé of that time. The name graal was inspired by the saga of the Holy Graal which contains the blood of Christ. The first graal pieces were ruby red and had the aspect of a red liquid freely flowing in the vase. Hence, the analogy to the blood of Christ and the name Graal. In the graal technique a colored layer of glass is encased by a colored layer of glass. The glass is then allowed to cool down and when it is cold the design is applied by engraving or etching. The obtained “stock” of “blank” piece of glass is then carefully reheated and blown into its final shape. During this process the sharp edges of the design become smooth and the motive becomes more soft and blurred, giving it its typical Graal aspect.


The name Ariel was inspired by the god of the wind in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. It is based on the Graal technique, and was developed by Bergkvist at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was developed by Gustav Bergkvist, Vicke Lindstrand and Edvin Öhrström. They discovered it by accident when they noticed that while encasing colored glass that was engraved there sometimes remained air bubbles trapped in the recesses of the design, which gave the piece a completely new aspect.

The way the Ariel technique works is as follows:

Like with the graal technique, a colored layer of glass is first encased by a clear layer. Onto this “blank” or “stock” piece of glass the initial design is then applied. In the early days this was done either through engraving or etching using acid. Later, this has been done almost exclusively by sandblasting the motive into the glass. This is then enclosed by clear glass and it is heated again and blown into its final form and size.


The Kraka technique was developed by Sven Palmqvist in 1944. The pattern is created with the use of a wire mesh that is placed over a blank that is then etched. This creates a net-like pattern that traps air bubbles when the outer encasing of glass is applied.  The name “Kraka” was inspired by the old Nordic Legend of Kraka, where she had to appear before Ragnar Lodbrok “neither dressed, not undressed”. She solved the task by appearing wrapped in a fishnet.


This technique was developed by Sven Palmqvist in 1948 after a trip to Italy. He was fascinated by the byzantine mosaics, windows and patterns that he saw in Ravenna. Upon his return to Orrefors, these inspired him to recreate these patterns in glass. It is similar to the Ariel technique. A colored glass layer is put on top of a clear one and these are then flattened. The motive is created by sandblasting away the colored layer of glass to expose the clear glass. Powdered colored glass or pigments are then scattered into the applied design before the whole is being encased with clear glass. Small air bubbles are trapped in the design, but their size and number are considerably less than with the Ariel technique. The Ravenna pieces are then reheated and given their final shape.


Sven Palmqvist developed the Fuga technique to provide Orrefors with a means to mass-produce cheap domestic glasswares. The technique is characterized by its simplicity and its ingenuity and works as follows: molten glass is poured into a spinning mould that, through its centrifugal spinning force (hence the name “Fuga”), presses the glass outward and upward. The internal shape of the piece being produced is determined by an internal plunger. The whole process can be done automatically and takes less then one minute. When the glass pops out, it is completely finished and does not need to be polished or finished in any other way. 

Hand painted (enameled) glass

Most Swedish glassworks did not hand-paint glass. Lindstrand experimented with this technique infrequently and it was not until Gunnar Cyren joined Orrefors in 1959 that Orrefors actually started to produce hand painted glass on a larger scale. Kosta also started late with producing hand painted glass. Both manufacturers were surprised by its popularity and today hand painted glass plays an important role in their product portfolios.  Basically a motive is painted onto the glass by hand, and the glass is then reheated in the oven until it is close to its melting point. The high temperature brings out the final color of the motive and fuses the paint to the glass.

Slip Graal (Turbine Graal)

This is a variation on the Graal technique. Rather than being engraved or etched, the motive is ground onto the colored piece of glass. The slip graal pieces are usually decorated with vertical lines that are ground onto the hot glass in a circular motion. This technique was also called Turbine Graal.


The Thalatta technique was developed by Bengt Edenfalk while at Skruf. It is a variation on the Ariel technique. In contrast to the Ariel technique, the encased piece of glass is not allowed to cool down prior to applying the motive, but the motive is applied immediately while the glass is still hot. Air bubbles are then trapped in the motive in a way that can be much less controlled than with the Ariel technique, giving Thalatta pieces a very lively aspect.


The Litograal technique was developed by Per B. Sundberg during his time at Orrefors. It is a variation on the Graal Technique. With the Litograal technique a motive is applied through sandblasting a layer of ceramic enamel. This is then encased in clear glass again which gives a lithographic effect. Hence the name Litograal.


Per B. Sundberg developed the Fabula technique while at Orrefors. The technique is loosely based on the Graal technique. It basically consists of applying decals of all kinds (from commercially sold comics to flower prints) to a sub-layer of glass, which he then covered with irregular layers of transparent glass. The result is a vase with an almost surreal appearance both in form, shape and motive.