Miami-based glass-master brings light to La Jolla

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

For a few days in January, Miami-based glass artist Terje Lundaas came to town to install a chandelier he designed for a La Jolla couple.

Born in Oslo, Norway, Lundaas studied art, craft and design at The Royal College of Art in Stockholm, Sweden, and spent years as a fashion designer before moving on to sculpture.

“I began painting when I was young, but I was actually educated to be a tailor,” he said.

He moved to Miami in 1991 because he knew there were many Scandinavians in the area — potential buyers for the bronze sculptures he was making at the time. His move to glass involved both serendipity and initiative.

“I was designing pieces for cruise ships, and next door to the foundry where I was doing my bronzes, there was a little glass-blowing studio,” he said. “I’m an impatient person, and I’d been thinking my bronzes took too long. I started talking to the glassblower, a professor at the University of Miami, and asked if he needed an assistant. I told him I had no experience with glass, but would work for free if he gave me 15 minutes of instruction for every hour I put in. I started that day.”

Recalling his early experiments with glass, Lundaas smiled. “I didn’t know what I was not supposed to do, so I had no limits,” he said. “I sold pieces from sketches, and just found a way to do it.”

He liked being able to make things he could finish in 20 minutes, but added that it took him 20 years to really understand the movement and temperature of his medium, which includes sheet glass, fused glass, cast glass and blown glass.

For years now, he has been working out of his own 1600-square-foot studio, creating large-scale sculptures for clients like The Breakers and Ritz Carlton hotels in Palm Beach, The Hyatt Resort in Waikiki, and the Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines. He has taught glassblowing at the University of Miami, and his work can be seen in galleries around the U.S. and Europe.

Locally, he is represented by Biljana Beran of Galeria Jan, on Prospect Street in La Jolla. Beran, a native of Yugoslavia who owned a gallery in Sarajevo before war tore her country apart, has been living in La Jolla since 1994. In 1996, she opened a gallery here, named for her husband and son, both called Jan. (She, too, has a Jan in her name, Biljana.)

Over a decade ago, she met Lundaas at a gallery in Salt Lake City, where he was exhibiting. She arranged for a show at Galeria Jan, and his works sold out. These days, she has only one of his pieces on display, a large blown-glass vessel called “Indian Summer.” But she has plans for another solo show this fall.

Meanwhile, his local clients, Drs. Joseph and Gloria Shurman, are thrilled with their new chandelier, which Lundaas designed to create “a warm feeling, like a fireplace.”

Gloria Shurman said she had intended to buy a chandelier in San Diego. “But Biljana kept saying: ‘What you don’t need is a Chihuly lookalike; you need an original by a well-known glass artist.” Once introduced to Lundaas, the Shurmans spent months looking at designs and colors, and months waiting for the finished product, which is made up of almost 100 pieces of blown glass.

“Watching Terje put it together was amazing,” Shurman said. “And it fits the space so well, it looks like it was born there. We absolutely love what he did.”

For more information about Lundaas and his work, contact Biljana Beran at