Classic Brands: Iittala

Classic Brands: Iittala

Kim R. McCormick
Sep 27, 2012

Finnish design company Iittala, which got its start making chemist's bottles in the 1880s, has endured thanks to their expertly made, simply elegant, beautifully useful glass products.

The company grew through its collaborations with a stable of talented designers such as Alvar Aalto, Kaj Franck, and Oiva Toikka. Though many of their designs date from the 1930s to 60s, Iittala's products look as fresh now as they did decades ago. The timelessness of their designs comes from their unadorned simplicity and the craftsmanship and artistry their fabrication requires.

Iittala designs rely on interesting lines, textures, and colors that largely have taken their inspiration from nature. The company likens the lines of the Aalto's iconic 1936 Savoy vase (Image 1), which he intended to be used not just as a vase but however was practical to the owner, to the Finnish landscape. The dripping effect on Tapio Wirkkala's "Ultima Thule" (Image 5), the technique for which the company says took "thousands of hours to perfect," mimics melting ice in Lapland. Toikka's birds (Image 3) are each handmade and unique collectors' items.

Click here to see a video of the production of an Aalto vase, which requires seven separate glassblowers. Go here to listen to Franck's moving sculpture "Ateenan aamu" (Image 9).

For shopping, check out our list of sources for Finnish design online.

Happy Birthday: Aalto's Savoy Vase
Iittala Birds by Oiva Toikka
Iittala Taika Collection
Tour of Alvar Aalto's Design Office

(Images: 1-7, 9, and 10. Iittala 8. Crate & Barrel)

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