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Kaj Franck (1911—1989)



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(established 1873)

This Finnish pottery company was established as a subsidiary of the Swedish Rörstrand company in its quest to secure Russian markets. Although its early years were dominated by the aesthetic outlook and technological practices of its parent, by the turn of the century it was producing a number of designs that reflected Finnish turn‐of‐the century nationalism. This was seen at the Paris International Exhibition of 1900, where it was awarded a Gold Medal for the Fennia range. Far greater independence was gained by the acquisition of Arabia by Finnish business interests in 1916 and the company proved commercially successful. The company's first tunnel kiln, introduced in 1929, was the largest in the world and did much to help the firm become one of the largest pottery manufacturers in Europe before the Second World War. In 1932 a Swedish modernizer Kurt Ekholm became artistic director, establishing artists' studios in the factory and thereby bringing together art and industry. After the end of the Second World War Arabia began to gain widespread recognition for its aesthetic output with Eckholm's appointment of Kaj Franck as chief designer. Frank sought to mass produce well‐designed everyday wares exemplified in his Koti (Home) dinnerware for the Finnish welfare agency. One of his best‐known modern and commercially successful designs was his ‘mix‐and‐match’ Kilta dinnerware service, which was in production from 1953 to 1974. Other designers who came to the fore in this period included Ulla Procopé, who produced the popular and highly practical Liekki dinnerware service (1958). The 1970s and 1980s were more problematic with a series of takeovers and mergers culminating in the 1990 takeover of Arabia, Rörstrand, Gustavsberg, and Iittala by the Finnish Hackman Group's Designer Oy, a design consortium committed to high standards of design that helped to restore the company's prestige.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art — Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.

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