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Göran Wärff: 1933-2022

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Published on 23 May 2022

Göran Wärff
Göran Wärff

After studying architecture and design in Germany and in Stockholm, Göran Wärff became designer at the Pukeberg glassworks from 1959-64, moving to Kosta-Boda in Sweden from 1964-74 and subsequently working as a freelance designer. He was visiting lecturer at the University of New South Wales, Australia in 1977, and was Programme Leader at the then Sunderland Polytechnic from 1982-1985. He then returned to Sweden, where he cemented his reputation as one of the world’s greatest glass designers.

Though he had suffered from ill health for some time staff and admirers at the University had hoped he would return for our 40th anniversary celebration of glass teaching in Sunderland in October.

Dr Cate Watkinson, Senior Lecturer in Architectural Glass, said: “Göran was the first Programme Leader for the BA (Hons) 3D Design Glass and Ceramics course as it was known as then. 

“Being a very well-known Swedish glass designer we were very lucky to have him.”

The 40th anniversary celebration of teaching Glass and Ceramics at Sunderland takes place on 15 October, 2022. To register contact alumni@sunderland.ac.uk

Andy McConnell, Glass collector, writer and glass specialist for the Antiques Roadshow, wrote the following about Göran Wärff:

After 56 years at a drawing board, Göran Wärff remains one of the most powerful, yet subtle, poetic and self-effacing contributors to Swedish glass. His work is arguably the most ‘glassy’ of all his contemporaries, relying almost entirely on the principles of line and light, & minimal use of colour and ‘fireworks’.

Wärff was born, raised and still lives on the Baltic island of Gotland, ancestral home of the Swedish Vikings. Bearded, heavy set, standing at six-foot-three [190.5cm] and possessing a slow, resonant voice, his friends often refer to him as a reincarnated Viking. As such, to the Swedes, he is a true 'Gotlanning'.

The seafaring link remains strong. Experience gained from a round-the-world voyage during national service in the Swedish Navy proved life defining, and he still regularly returns to the sea, sailing on the Baltic. The sea has always echoed in his work, and in his titles: Pacific, Atlantic, Sails, etc.

Indeed, much of his output, particularly after joining Kosta in 1964, appears to have been created as much by wind, rain and current as through human intervention. Naturally, blue has always been his preferred colour. As his wife Lena puts it, “Once a navy man, always a navy man!”

Unlike many artists, Göran appears comfortable in his own skin. Unselfconscious, his stated objective has been to create pleasing, functional and artistic objects, by uniting his heart, mind and soul. Yet according to him at least, he has never achieved perfection. Though naturally proud of his achievements, he says, with genuine modesty, “One day I hope that I will make something really good.”

We will never see his like again. Our personalities sometimes clashed, but our mutual love of glass bridged that divide. I liked him & loved his designs.

Tack så mycket, Göran. Condolences to Lena & their daughters.

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