Vrij Glas Foundation
On December 11th 1965 Sybren Valkema blew the first glass at the Amsterdam Gerrit Rietveld Academy, starting an epoch-making tradition of Studio Glass at this academy. Exactly forty years later his son Durk Valkema, Anna Carlgren and Annelies van der Vorm produced the first glass bubble in the new premises of their Vrij Glas Foundation (Free Glass). The centre is located in two former artillery pavillions in Zaandam, very near to Amsterdam. Its elegant, functionalistic 1930’s architecture swill be transformed into glass studios, a gallery and café.
The Vrij Glas Foundation encourages innovation, research and experiments. After organizing the Amsterdam GAS conference in 2002 - two years of preparation, culminating in one week of intense activity - Valkema, Carlgren and Van der Vorm wanted to consolidate their acquired experience in a permanent centre. Any painter, architect, designer, goldsmit or student who wants to work glass is welcome. A professional artistic basis is required however. During residency programms he or she can use the technical infrastructure and vital expertise from glassblowers. Anna Carlgren: ‘We hope to create a greater awareness of glass as a medium for visual artists. As a student at the Rietveld Academy I could easily move from glass to ceramics, painting, fashion or jewelry. There were no borders between the departments, creating stimulating cross-overs. Also during my stays in Paris and Sweden as consultant for Iaspis, I was greatly inspired by the international exchange of artists.’
Vrij Glas not only aims at international and interdisciplinary exchange, but also at innovation. Since industries like Royal Leerdam Glassworks or schools like Rietveld Academy stopped experimenting, the possibilities for research have decreased dramatically in Holland.For glass innovation it’s essential to work directly in the material. Carlgren mentions the famous Arabia studios, where the ceramic artists could easily enter the factories to discuss problems with the workers directly. Both Valkema and Carlgren are devoted, highly skilled glass experts. For Bernard Heesen, who was commissioned to design a glass carillon, they did the research, in close collaboration with sonar experts and finally produced the glass chimes. Vrij Glas possesses manifold, high performance technical state-of-the-art equipments for hot and cold glass, e.g. a high casting furnace for combining colours, a reheat furnace with a large gloryhole, a centrifuge for glass and an automatic machine for cutting and polishing, coming from the optical lense-industry.
Zaandam is a small village nearby Amsterdam.