This article will give a short presentation of the glass production at the PLUS glass workshop in Norway and a portrait of the most important designers in the 20 years that the workshop existed.
The craftsmen of the artists colony at PLUS handcraft center started up their organisation in 1958 as an apparatus of coordination, and to develop designers relations to the industry. The ideas behind the initiativ came from the British Arts and Crafts movement, and collective ideals inherited from the functionalism of the 1930s and 40s. The center was located in the old fortress town of Fredrikstad, 60 US miles to the east of Oslo. When the center started up, it consisted of workshops for weaving, textile printing, glass, silver, ceramics, wood work and furniture design and production.
The establishing of the PLUS center was looked upon as a new and revolutionizing happening, and the products won quite a few awards and medals. Especially in the first years the PLUS products showed an original and unified expression of form, and the designers and craftsmen presented themselves as a united entity.
The glass workshop recruted Arne Lindaas (1924- ) as it's artistic leader. Lindaas was a well known painter and designer who had worked for Porsgrunn Porselensfabrikk, and been the leading designer at Magnor Glassverk in the 1950's. He didn't stay at the glass workshop more than one year, and later returned to designing for Magnor. Even though his periode at PLUS was short, it is easy to follow the influences from the series he first designed as a new line at Magnor to the early PLUS glass designs.
In the start the workshop produced series that were designed by artists connected to the different PLUS workshops. However the glass workshop soon developed into a production company of it's own, PLUS-glass, with designers specialized in glass designing. The production had a strong emphasis on products for daily use, such as bowls, vases and decanters in colors and forms reminiscent of old bottles in green or brown glass. The new look revealed a connection to traditional crafts with materials from nature and an expression taken from folklore.
One of the most influential designers at the PLUS glass workshop was Richard Duborgh (1932- ) who held the position as artistic leader from 1959. Duborgh is most known for his ceramics. He and his wife Tone has been influential craftspeople in Norway since the late 1950's. The young Duborgh soon became one of the leading artists at PLUS, and designed a lot of glass and pottery for the workshops. Most of the glass from the 1960's are Richard Duborghs design.
The PLUS designers worked closely together with the glass-blowers. The magazine 'Bonytt' wrote in 1966: 'The PLUS glass-workshop model-collection is influenced by the fact that the designer - in addition to being just that - is also a craftsman. Indeed, you can read out of the objects that a craftsman with a genuine feeling for the material is at work. The shape is the essential element for Dubourgh, and the shape is subject to the possibilities of the material and it's natural limitations in a good way.' In the glass production, as well as the design and production of ceramics, Duborgh's emphasis is on usefulness of the object as a tool.
Other well known Norwegian artists related to the PLUS glass workshop are Hermann Bongard (1921- ) and Gro Bergslien (1940- ). Bongard was an influential designer at Hadeland Glassverk (the largest glass producer in Norway) 1948-55, and won the Lunning prize in 1957. He was appointed the position of artisic leder for the PLUS organisation in 1960, and stayed on until 1964. At PLUS he designed everything from plastic items to tables and glassware. Gro Bergslien started at PLUS and moved on to Hadeland, where she started designing in 1964. She's been an important glass designer in Norway from the 1970s and onward.
The one most important designer of PLUS glass, apart from Richard Duborgh, is Benny Motzfeldt (1909-1995). With her background as a painter, she started off as one of the most experimenting designers at Hadeland, with lots of air bubbles and dots of colour in her work. She left for the much smaller Randsfjord Glassverk in 1967. This meant for her an opportunity to work closer to the production. Randsfjord was a small glass producer with only 15 glass blowers. When Motzfeldt moved again, in the fall 1970 - this time to the PLUS workshop, it was a further step in the same direction - the direction of the production. As artistic leader at the PLUS glass workshop she had only 3 glass blowers. Benny Motzfeldt is well known for her thick glass designs in strong colors and inlays of metal and glassfibre nets that gives the effect of light veils within the glass, or exploding movements to the glass. The emphasis is placed on the glass as a mass, shapes take on a heavier and more rustic form, which is achieved by the glass being blown through coarse wooden moulds.
When Motzfeldt started working at PLUS there was a stronger focus on the individual craftsperson, and the profile of the collective was no longer emphasized. This also describes Motzfeldts way of working; she saw in herself more the artist than the craftsperson. In her own words: 'Personally I cannot see the diffrence between creating in glass, and creating in another material.'
The PLUS production represents a development in Benny Motzfeldts work towards a technicaly more refined way of working. The rustic shapes and colours from her Randsfjord period are gradually replaced by lighter forms and a more poetic expression.
The workshops at the PLUS center developed through the 1970s into indepentent units. Benny Motzfeldt also moved on towards studio glass manufactoring. She died in 1995, and she is today the most collected Norwegian glass artist.