Shiny examples of beautiful Finnish vintage vessels and other oddities.
Timo Sarpaneva (1926–2006)
Sarpaneva was one of Finland’s best known industrial designers. He is also notable for sculptor and as an educator, being granted Professor status. His favoured medium was glass but he also made use of ceramics, metal, textiles and wood in his projects. Sarpaneva enjoyed working in domestic situations, lending his industrial design credentials to projects as varied as cast metal cookers to china dinner sets. He is recognised as one of the fathers of modern Finnish design. His work can be found in museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Kaj Franck is often described as the conscience of Finnish design and spent nearly half a century as one of the leading figures in design and applied arts between 1940-1980. His reputation was for simplicity, removing anything that may be considered as excessive in his designs, leaving only the bare essentials. He and his work have been awarded numerous Finnish and international awards and prizes and can be seen displayed at a range of design museums around the world. Frank is possibly best known for his work as artistic director of the Arabia ceramics company (now part of Iittala Group). Of particular fame are the Teema tableware and the glass series Kartio.
Many would argue, perhaps quite correctly, that Tapio Wirkkala is Finland's internationally best-known designer. Finns have lived their lives on a daily basis with the outputs of his creative instincts. For example Wirkkala's design could be found on the old Markka currency series of banknotes, from its introduction in 1955 until 1981.
But there are plenty of other examples ranging from a ketchup bottle, light bulbs for Airam, the world recognised Finlandia vodka bottle, that adorned shelves between 1970-2000 and the Ultima Thule set of kitchen glasses presented by Iittala. Internationally he was commissioned to design glass objects for the Venini glassworks in Italy and porcelain and cutlery for the Rosenthal factory in Germany. His portfolio, as a highly versatile designer and artist, covers work in glass, wood, porcelain, metal, plastics and plywood which made him was one of the forerunners of Finnish modernism in sculpture. His work has been both mass produced and created as standalone pieces.
Founded in 1873 by Rörstrand, Arabia is a Finnish ceramics company that specialized in kitchenware, tableware and design gifts. It is currently owned by Fiskars. The Arabia brand and business has been at the forefront of Finnish design for over 130 years, throughout its existence mirroring the times, with a commitment to strong, consumer-oriented design. It has a reputation for timeless, distinctive, yet functional design. Arabia remains one of Finland's best known and most highly regarded brands. The original Arabia porcelain factory is located in Toukola (Helsinki). It is now also home to the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture.
Today Marimekko is one of the most recognised Finnish brands across the world, retailing from Tokyo to New York. Marimekko was founded in 1951 by Viljo and Armi Ratia. Armi asked some artist friends to apply their graphic design skills to textiles for production at Viljo's garment plant. The plan was to use the brightly coloured printed fabrics in a line of simple dresses for commercial sale. From this modest beginning the Marimekko business, based in Helsinki, has grown to become a household name across the world. It's reputation is gained from its simple styles, used both in women's garments and home furnishings. However, its impact goes far beyond the commercial roots.
Marimekko has made an important contributions to fashion, especially in the 1960s, particularly through the work of designers such as Vuokko Nurmesniemi (renowned for the use of bold stripes), Maija Isola (who focused on large simple flowered prints) and Annika Rimala (strong and cheerful graphic patterns). Between them and the many other designers, the Marimekko business has created a portfolio of hundreds of distinctive patterns. This business played an instrumental role in the early recognition of fashion as an industrial art form, a point recognised by Finland's leading industrial designer Timo Sarpaneva, who invited the company to present a fashion show at the 1957 Triennale in Milan.