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Tapio Wirkkala (1915—1985)

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(established 1881)

A celebrated Finnish glass manufacturer with a long history, Iittala's international reputation was forged after the Second World War through major company's designers such as Kaj Franck, Tapio Wirkkala, and Timo Sarpaneva, all of whom have been associated with the best of Scandinavian glass design. The Iittala glassworks, founded by a master glassblower in 1881, was taken over in 1917 by the Ahlström company which had itself already acquired the famous Karhula glassworks. Subsequently known as Karhula‐Iittala, the Karhula works was more closely associated with mass‐produced glass and Iittala with blown glass, the Aaltos winning a number of competitions sponsored by Karhula in the 1930s. After the war Kaj Frank won a glass competition sponsored by Iittala in 1946 and was employed by the company until 1950. Wirkkala, also a winner of the 1946 competition, worked in art glass at Iittala having first attracted attention with his famous, evocatively organic Kantarelli vase of 1947, based on the chanterelle mushroom. The second version was awarded a grand prize at the 1951 Milan Triennale. Timo Sarpaneva began designing for the company in 1950, winning recognition in the 1954 Milan Triennale for his Lancet II (1952) and Orchid (1953). Many of his designs were characterized by a strongly sculptural, asymmetrical, and abstract appearance. Amongst his most widely known achievements has been the Finlandia art glass collection of 1974. Other designers working for the company have included Valto Kokko, who began working for Iittala in 1963, Jorma Vennola, who started in 1975, and Mikko Parppanen, who commenced in 1983. In 1988 Iittala merged with the Nuutajärvi‐Notsjö glass company to become Iittala‐Nuutajärvi and was itself taken over by the Finnish housewares manufacturer Hackman in 1990, along with Arabia and Rörstrand.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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