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European Virtual Training Centre
for glass arts and techniques

Sweden Graal


Written and translated by Ole Victor

Credit for the invention of Graal is given to master blower Knut Bergqvist at Orrefors in 1916. The first to explore and artistically utilize the technique was the artist and designer, Simon Gate at Orrefors , later by numerous others.

The word Graal is derived from Latin “gradalis” for bowl or goblet. According to legend the blood of Christ at the crucifixion was gathered in the Holy Grail (Graal).

Knut Bergqvist is said to have been striving to develop the technique of relief engraving of overlay coloured vessels, often seen in art noveau and jugent. His aim was to avoid the milky relief surface of these objects, to get more glass characteristics to the final piece, but still keeping the detailed colour pattern capacity.

To achieve this he added another step in the manufacturing process where the decorated relief piece, often referred to as a blank or embryo, was again reheated and covered with a hot glass gather before it was blown to its final shape and size.

The very first Graal piece is still exhibited in the glass gallery at Orrefors Glassworks where many other samples can also be viewed.

In the beginning, Graal vessels where often quite small and comparably thin, as opposed to many contemporary Graal, that are often large and heavy. Both these characteristics derive from the limits the decoration sets for expanding the blank to size by blowing in the final step. Too much blowing makes the pattern expand and distort, very much like a logo on a toy balloon. This resulted in the early small pieces but also in the modern larger but also thicker pieces.

Graal as a decorating technique is closely related to Ariel, which was developed from the concepts of Graal, technically as well as culturally.

Graal is continuously developed technically and artistically, among others by Astrid Gate, Simon’s granddaughter, inventor of the double and triple Graal. Astrid is the designer and engraver in this film.