Terje Lundaas brightens up Miami
A Norwegian glass artist on American shores
LORI ANN REINHALL
The Norwegian American
In a city that boasts a luscious tropical flora and gets about 3,150 hours of sunshine a year, is it really possible to add more color and light and still be noticed?
Well, the answer is yes, if you are Terje Lundaas, a Norwegian glass artist, who has a called Miami his home for the last 30 years.
Lundaas has had a long career in the glassblowing world, but like Dale Chihuly, he started out in the applied arts, in the field of fashion design. After completing his studies at the Royal College of Art in Oslo in the early 1970s, he was recruited by Levi Strass in London where he served as the head designer for a couple of years.
He was subsequently headhunted by the Swedish fashion chain Marco Polo and relocated to Stockholm, a city that boasts a vibrant art scene. During his 10 years in the Swedish capital, he did a lot of painting and soaked up influences from the art world there. “It was a fantastic time for me as artist,” he said, and his artwork sold very well.
But by 1991, he was tired of corporate life and cold Nordic winters. He decided to move to sunny Miami, a city that is home to a large number of Norwegian immigrants.
Once in Florida, Lundaas started experimenting with bronze-casting at the University of Miami. It is a very time-consuming process, “but I don’t have so much patience,” he said. There was a large glass studio at the university, and Lundaas became interested in molten glass.
He went to the head of the art department and asked if he needed help and they made a deal. In exchange for every hour Lundaas worked in the glass studio, he received 15 minutes of instruction from his new mentor.
Lundaas found that glassblowing is a very complicated art to do compared with painting. There is a lot of technique to learn, so Lundaas consumed as many books as possible on the art of making glass. He took pictures of his work as he was learning and won a five-year scholarship for glassblowing at the University of Miami.
A new glass studio
Lundaas has always had a penchant for forging his own path. While other students at the university were making smaller glass pieces, Lundaas preferred to work in a larger format. This required that his glass pieces had to stay in the kiln longer and many were getting ruined, when the ovens were opened for the smaller things. The intrepid Norwegian artist realized he would have to make another change. The result was the opening of his own glass studio, today known as Hot Glass Design.
In 2,000 square feet of workspace, Lundaas is easily able to create the 18-foot chandeliers for which he has become famous. Sometimes working with 15 pounds of molten glass to these impressive extra-large pieces requires that he has five or six assistants to work with him. He has one full-time assistant employed on a regular basis and calls others in for special projects. “Blowing glass requires a lot of strength,” says Lundaas, “but I never get tired.” Even though the artist can be working an environment of intense physical heat up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, he finds that “the creative process is so exciting, so dynamic, that you don’t think about the physical stress until the end of day.”
The artist explained that working with glass is very different from working in other media. “There is a free form to it,” he says. “While you may have a plan or notion for your piece, you follow where the glass takes you. Each piece comes out differently, sometimes wonderful, and other times, you ask yourself what on earth ….”
Lundaas works with a number of interior designers and architects in the region (during his 25 years in Miami, about 90% of his work has been sold to them). Their renderings specify how large a commissioned piece needs to be, but he works with a large amount of artistic freedom to create the optimal result. Lundaas’ work is seen in hotels and restaurants around Miami and other major cities, including The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., and the Hyatt Resort Waikiki, in Honolulu. He has created works for 16 Royal Caribbean ships. He explained that glass pieces for ships carry certain special requirements. With the rocking of the waves at sea, they are often designed to be placed in niche areas to protect them from vibrations that could damage them.
A Nordic glass artist
When talking about influences on his work, Lundaas was quick to mention Chihuly. “He brought the art of glass to a new level,” Lundaas says, “and you cannot escape him.”
But undeniably, the Nordic influence is also there. He takes much of his inspiration from Sweden and Denmark, countries known for innovation and excelling in the world of glass.
“Sweden is light years ahead of Norway,” says Lundaas. In the “Kingdom of Glass” in southern Sweden–Glasriket—the art of creating glass is more advanced, and Lundaas has spent time there perfecting his own art. He is particularly interested in the Graal technique that was developed at the Kosta Boda Glassworks in the 1920s. With this technique, a colored layer of glass is encased by a transparent layer of glass. The glass is then allowed to cool down, and when it is cold, the design is applied by engraving, etching, or sandblasting. The obtained “embryo” of glass is then reheated and blown into its final shape. “The more you blow, the more distorted it becomes,” says Lundaas. “It’s beautiful.”
Lundaas certainly does not dismiss the work created at glasswork in his native country of Norway and pointed out the impressive work done at the Hadeland Glassworks in Jevnaker. He travels to Norway often—usually three times a year— and he soaks up inspiration from the beautiful nature there. He still owns a cabin just north of Geilo. A recent winter visit resulted in a new glass collection that is made up of five different whites.
But like many Nordic artists, Lundaas has a predication for the color blue. His very first glass pieces were created in a deep cobalt color, and different shades of blue will appear in his pieces time and again. Lundaas, like American glass artist William Morris, is also drawn to the colors of tropical birds. He loves to visit the Parrot Jungle in Miami, and he is given to searching the internet for new ideas.
“Nature is fantastic,” says Lundaas. “You cannot exhaust the possibilities there.”
A new exhibit at Norway House
Lundaas is a strong supporter of the Norwegian community in Miami and throughout the United States, and this month, his work will be coming to Norway House in Minneapolis. The exhibit will consist mostly of blown pieces, with three to five glass sculptures, torsos or faces, and few taller pieces.
All the art works will be for sale, and Lundaas will donate a percentage of the sales to benefit Norway House. The exhibit will open with a reception with the artist on March 25 and will run through May 29. For more information, visit norwayhouse.org.
This article originally appeared in the March 4, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.