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Glassblower Ebba von Wachenfeldt
Photo: Christopher Hunt

Overview

She who controls the furnace

Just before Christmas glassblower Ebba von Wachenfeldt saw a wolf trotting through the snow covered fields outside her house. “We followed it for a bit. The tracks were enormous.”

Now, a few months later, Ebba stands gazing at the same field. There is no wolf. The loud, constant humming of the furnace in the corner of the work shop is the glassblower’s ever present background noise. Ebba von Wachenfeldt’s two colleagues rattle around with their pliers and blowpipes. Glass, as a material, is silent, elegant and malleable – all the tools used to master the material are hard, heavy and dirty.

We meet up in a former schoolbuilding outside Gnesta, in the province of Södermanland.  This has been Ebba’s home and workshop for twelve years.

The oldest building, dating from the early 20th century, houses her exhibition area. The newer, 1960’s school building is her workplace and shop. Generous windows allow sunlight to flow freely through her rooms. There is ample space for a warehouse, storage and a studio. But what made Ebba fall for the building at first was something rather unexpected:

“All the electricity! There is soo much here – 200 amps! We only need 60, and even that is hard to come by in ordinary houses.”

She and her husband, an IT-consultant, took possession of the premises and renamed them Skeppsta Hytta. The broadband is useless. The electrical capacity, on the other hand, is wonderfully over sized.

“In the cities you cannot afford space like this. It gives me freedom. Everything is possible in the countryside. I may not make millions, like my friends in the city, but I’m never stuck in traffic.”

Ebba von Wachenfeldt puts on a pair of lilac sunglasses that could have been worn by John Lennon towards the end of his career. They block some of the radiant heat from the furnaces. Her workshop is glowing hot. The hottest furnace is 1,100 degrees Celsius.

Ebba picks up a “gather”, the first glob of molten glass at the end of the blowpipe. She starts spinning the pipe. Hedda, her eight year-old, brown and white Springer Spaniel, moves around her feet.

“She came too close to the furnace once and burnt her whiskers. It took her five years to work up the courage to enter the workshop again.”

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