The Iittala collection of glassware and homewares epitomises purity of form, fired in the historic art of glassblowing and a century of revolutionary Finnish design.
Finland is a country of contrasts. It’s bound by the Baltic Sea, Sweden and Russia. It enjoys dark arctic winters and months of midnight sun. It’s home to the Northern lights. And it’s blessed with beaches, hundreds of thousands of islands and lakes, and what is perhaps Europe’s last true wilderness.
This is an environment of extremes, a fact that the Finns embrace. (These people endorse sprinting from a steaming hot sauna into an icy lake!!) There is an emphasis on the essential, on functional necessity. In Finnish design, this is revealed in faultless forms that marry utility with organic elegance.
Iittala takes its name from the humble village in the country’s south where it opened its first glass factory in 1881. The art of glassblowing is age-old in Finnish culture with countless art lovers tracing the glass trail from Helsinki and Iittala to the far North each year.
Glass blower Tapani Viljamaa says, “It is fascinating to struggle with a living material. Glass is a material that does not forget if you do not treat it well. It has a memory.”
Iittala specialised initially in blown, pressed, polished, painted and etched glass in keeping with contemporary cosmopolitan designs, developing a reputation for fine craftsmanship. In the 1930s, however, a kind of cultural revolution took hold.
The Aaltos alongside designers like Kaj Franck and Charles + Ray Eames revolutionised the way people viewed everyday objects in the early twentieth century.
“Beauty is the harmony of purpose and form,” Alvar said, championing functional aestheticism.
Pushing the democratic agenda that good design could change lives, Aalto transformed Nordic classicism with his organic modern lines. He was a visionary, crafting items of timeless relevance realised with a purity of form.
Together, Aalto and Iittala drove the change from geometric cut-crystal to simple modern glassware designs. The free-formed Aalto vase collection drew acclaim for its originality when it was launched in 1936. Aalto’s design is open to interpretation, considered by many to represent Finland’s thousands of lakes with their winding shorelines.
Aalto vases are still mouth-blown today, making each piece unique. Each vase takes seven craftsmen, twelve work stages, 1100 °C and ten hours to make. And this commitment to craftsmanship continues with Iittala’s contemporary collections, such as the Ruutu vases.
Ruutu, meaning diamond or square in Finnish, is a curated collection of mouth-blown vases in a range of sizes and vibrant colours. They’re designed to work in collaboration or solo. Showcasing a strict symmetry of form, they couldn’t be more different from Aalto’s vases. Yet similarly, each vase takes seven craftsmen 24 hours to produce!!
The Ruutu vases exhibit delicate watercolour-like palettes that collude with one another. Reaching an even, delicate colour requires the exact temperature, timing and a great deal of expertise in glass-mass chemistry.
“We were seeking to express the purity of glass blowing in this simple diamond shape,” explain Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, the brother design team behind Ruutu.
“Glass is a material that likes round shapes. When hot it flows like honey and does not like to be pulled into a very precise geometric shape. By developing the strict shape we are reaching the limits of the material, and using the highest level of the Iittala glass-blowing expertise.”
With over a century of fine craftsmanship under their belts, Iittala bridges the gap between past and present. Each piece represents the intersection of artistic innovation, traditional artisan techniques and iconic designs with an emphasis on superior craftsmanship.
Iittala is considered to be Finland’s leading glass designer (a giant among giants!). And functional aestheticism remains at the core of their ethos. Each beautifully crafted piece aims to deliver superior functionality and last a lifetime.
Iittala believe that quality never goes out of style.