In Finland, a glass artist with a long career is most generally thought to be a designer working for a factory. This was the usual arrangement for Finnish glass artists during the golden period of modernism.
At the beginning of the new millennium things have changed completely. What we are seeing now is the anticipated harvest from seeds sown during the 1980s and onwards, as the education within the field of glass was reformed.
Glass artist Vesa Varrela is one of the icons of our post-modern glass art. He was not sufficiently attracted by the studio glass art of the late 20th century, so from a fairly early stage he began to travel along roads of his own.
An essential element in Varrela's career has been his interest in solvin pedagogical problems. As a teacher in the University of Art and Design Helsinki in 1987 - 1993, he contributed significantly to the development of teaching of abstract glass art in Finland. This phase culminated in the graduation of the first university-educated Masters of glass art. During the 1990s, Varrela was also instrumental in starting a Venetian fashion in our glass art, an otherwise fairly unusual phenomenon in the North. After the start in 1993 numerous workshops under Venetian master glassmakers have guided glass students into the world of making and blowing Italian art glass.
In 1990, Vesa Varrela mounted the exhibition "Memories of the 90s" in the Finnish Glass Museum. Looking back to it now, a decade later, one feels it was aptly named. Many of the installations then exhibited, combining glass and scrap metal, have become classics in museum collections all over the world and in private collections.
In recent years Varrela has worked with incalmo and ring-technique, renewing the colorful hollow cylinder shapes in the spirit of Kaj Franck's traditional coloured plates. The work also serves as a splendid proof of the skills of master blower Jaakko Liikanen. The results are extremely interesting, unique glass pieces with fresh motifs.
Among the many facets of Vesa Varrela's art, the role of the glass artist seems to become stronger as he grows and matures from an empiricist towards the position reserved for him in Finnish glass art. His dynamic character has provided plenty of capability for renewal, and whatever paths his art will next take, in all likelihood they will provide an interesting experience for those watching his progress.
A resident of the city of Tampere, Varrela is internationally among our most widely known modern glass artists. His bold work is in demand by notable glass gallerias and museums throughout the world.
Dr. Heikki Matiskainen
The Finnish Glass Museum