Ateliers d'art de France presents

Meeting Maria Bang Espersen, creator of the signature piece of Révélations 2025

Her work has been selected to embody the visual of the signature piece for this 7th edition of Révélations. Maria Bang Espersen, a Danish-Swedish craftswoman, blows glass in her workshop in Småland County, Sweden. Her approach to the material is experimental and investigative, always curious to find new ways of using it. Meet the creator who explores and pushes back the properties of glass through unconventional processes.
Can you tell us about your background?

I did not grow up dreaming of becoming an artist. I lived in the Danish countryside and played with ideas of becoming a hairdresser, a school teacher or, later on, an art historian. I even enrolled at the university of Aarhus to study art history, but dropped out after only 1.5 years. I did not have a backup plan and the only thing that I thought I might have an interest in, was glassblowing. It was something I had been fascinated with as I child. So, I decided to test it out at a local school and a few years later I was fully committed and enrolled in a three-year technical glassblowing program in Kosta, Sweden. After this I studied glass at an applied arts school for another three years in Nexø, Denmark, before finally earning my MFA in art at CalArts in the US in 2017.

How do you imagine, design and create your glass sculptures?

My practice often starts with a very broad, open question such as: What happens if I do this to glass? This way, a conversation between me and the glass starts and from then on, it is very much about me observing what the glass is trying to communicate. It is a way for me to discover something new and exciting, that I could never have simply thought up on my own. I think of my final art works as collaborations between me and the material. The “techniques” I decide to develop are always the kind that I cannot 100% control. I want some things to be reserved for the unexpected.
Over the past 10-15 years, much has happened in the Scandinavian glass scene. A new generation of artists looking to explore glass in unconventional ways have emerged and I consider myself part of this movement.

The making of my sculptures can be described as a sort of extreme kind of playing – the process is wild, fun, and full of action, but the play material is a 900°C molten mass, shifting between malleable and stiff in a matter of seconds. My rapidly made sculptures come together under two opposing forces: control and serendipity. Traditional glass making is based on following precise rules because of the difficulty related to the craft. I mess with that by creating objects that are made fast and without the typical tools, creating prime conditions for me and the glass to work spontaneously together. My process clashes with the unyielding forces of gravity and time, compelling me to free myself from my own preconditioned notions¬ of good form and perfect technique. I need my focus to be 100% or this delicate relation will collapse, yet I can never fully predict the outcome and I never have complete control.

Can you tell us about the importance of innovation in your work?

I decided early on in my career that I would not be pursuing traditional techniques. Instead, I wanted to play with the material and get to know it without forcing it into shape.
Today my approach to glass stays experimental and investigative and I am always curious to find new ways to engage with it.
Focusing on unconventional fabrication processes is a way for me to physically manifest my interest in deconstructing existing hierarchies. Conventional glass making is based on following precise and restrictive rules, but I purposefully disrupt those notions by creating objects that are made fast and with the least amount of restrictions possible.

« Although made of glass and static in their final state, the objects´ playful exploration into conceived softness, reveals our flexible perceptions of the world and reminds us that things are often not as they first appear. »

How do you stand out with your technique?

I first developed the technique of stretching and folding hot glass in 2011. Air is trapped every time I fold the glass, turning a regular solid mass of glass into many layers of thin airy strings. Air, in combination with the optical properties of glass, results in the light being reflected in multiple directions creating a shimmery effect on the surface that is unusual in glass. Also, most of my sculptures are made of primarily transparent glass, but the air within them transforms their appearance and makes them opaque.

In addition, by stretching and folding hot glass, the strings on the outside cools down much faster than the warm core, offering a unique opportunity for me to work with the illusion of softness and create moments frozen in time. In the last seconds of malleability, I shape the glass by hand wearing heat resistant Kevlar gloves.

I had long had an idea to test out if I could fuse several of these stretched objects directly as I was making them in the glassblowing studio. In 2021 I finally tested it for the first time – and it worked! But I had never truly believed that it would, because all my knowledge regarding fused glass told me that it would fail due to the low temperature of the annealer, which must be at 510 degrees C at all times. But I discovered that adding freshly made objects could carry just enough heat for the fuse to happen.

Can you tell us more about the piece selected for Révélations?

Rock Mountain #1 is part of a series called “Soft”, created using this “stretched and folded hot glass”. technique. It was one of my first successful sculptures made with this new approach.
They are all investigations into the illusionistic possibilities of glass and the material´s ability to confront our expectations of what exist around us. These sculptures´ complexity simultaneously connotates shiny metal as well as draped silk, making the hardness of the sculptures intrinsically difficult to understand visually. Although made of glass and static in their final state, the objects´ playful exploration into conceived softness, reveals our flexible perceptions of the world and reminds us that things are often not as they first appear.

Discover the signature piece