Successful Glass School experiment: Copier, Valkema and the unknown pupil

Posted on 15 January 2019

On the occasion of our sales exhibition ‘Gestolde Dromen IX’ last summer, Lauren Geurtz, grandson of glass artist A.D. Copier and co-author of the books ‘Copier Compleet’ and ‘Glasschool Leerdam’, gave a lecture at Kunstconsult. Afterwards, we took him backstage to take a look at a remarkable lamp, which by its style was clearly recognizable as a product of Glass Factory Leerdam. The next morning, we found a set of design drawings in our mailbox.

The beautiful decorations on the lamp, consisting of signs of the zodiac, turned out to be – mostly – designed by Sybren Valkema. He was a teacher in aesthetic design at the School for Glass Decoration and Processing Leerdam, which was established in 1943 as a separate department next to the Glass School which Copier had founded in 1940. Here, students learned glass decoration skills such as engraving, grinding, painting, etching and sandblasting, but the design process also became central. The reunion of the lamp and the design drawings provide a unique insight into the work process.


Constellations by Sybren Valkema

In the early years of the Glass School, students applied Copier’s decoration designs to existing objects to develop their skills. From 1946 the design drawings of Sybren Valkema were also executed.
The figures and stars on the lamp have been applied on the yellow glass by means of the sandblasting technique. The execution of a design differed per student at the Glass School.
Copier described that some students preferred to make many pieces with the same design, while others were done after one piece. Remarkable about the lamp is that the constellation of Gemini deviates from what can be seen on the design drawing by Valkema. It may be a student’s own design, or a design drawing by another teacher such as Floris Meydam.



Illuminated relief decorations

What is also special about this Glass School object is its support: the lamp is in the shape of a bowl. The students mostly decorated thick, blank vases and ornamental bowls. That the decorations on the lamp come into their own perfectly is easy to explain. The shape of the lamp is very similar to that of the ornamental bowl for which the design drawings seem to have been originally intended. Because the glass is lit from the inside, the relief decorations recessed in the blank glass illuminate enchantingly in the middle of the surrounding yellow surface.


Lamp design by Copier

The lamp itself shows great similarities with the lamps that Copier designed for Glass Factory Leerdam. The ornamental glass knob at the bottom returns in many of his lamp designs of the 1950s. Often many other ornamental elements were added. However, for the zodiac lamp there is less constructive ornament, the attention is drawn entirely to the beautifully applied representations of the zodiac signs of Aries, Taurus and Gemini.



Unique object

All of this makes the Glass School lamp of Kunstconsult a unique object that perfectly demonstrates how the students of Glass School Leerdam decorated and processed glass. From Valkema’s zodiac, eleven out of twelve constellation designs were preserved (the design of the Libra is missing).

Now, of course, the question arises whether, in addition to this unique lamp with three constellations, there were once three other lamps that completed the zodiac. Due to the experimental environment in which the lamp came about we will probably never find out. What we do know is that the first owner bought this lamp directly from the Glass Factory.


Wall lamp with decor by Willem Heesen

From the same source, Kunstconsult also acquired an ocher-colored glass wall lamp, with a relief of a dancing woman. This lamp was also bought directly from Glass Factory Leerdam decades ago by the previous owner. 'I could not resist,' wrote Laurens Geurtz, who had dived into the archives again after seeing this object, and with success. The image turned out to be a fragment from a larger decor by Willem Heesen, the product almost certainly from the Glass School as well.


Text: Laura van Heeswijk

Photos: Erik Rijper, Noortje Remmerswaal


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