Flickr Widget

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tapio Wirkkala

Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985) was a Finnish sculptor, graphic designer and industrial designer. He studied sculpture in Helsinki at the Central School of Industrial Design from 1933-1936.

He first became famous for his organic vase designs for Iittala that resembled flower calyces, mushrooms or ice. These designs were produced from 1947 to the 1960s. Also well-known are his leaf-shaped bowls made of laminated wood. He was a prolific designer, creating glass for Venini and ceramics for Rosenthal, as well as beautiful knives, flatware, lighting, furniture and jewelry.

Wirkkala was named artistic director of the Central School of Industrial Design in 1951, a position he held till 1954. He ten worked in Raymond Loewy's New York design firm from 1955-1956. When he left that position in 1956, he opened his own design studio.

He won numerous international awards for his work, which is displayed in museums around the world, and he was a major influence on Scandinavian design by creating objects that were beautiful as well as functional.

Note: I was surprised to discover that in all these years of blogging, I had apparently neglected to post a biography of Tapio Wirkkala, although I have written about him many times. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but I hope this post gives some valuable background, even if late in coming. Previous posts can be seen here:

Video: Tapio Wirkkala
Tapio Wirkkala for Rosenthal
Icy Goodness
Pretty Pollo
Not Just Pretty Glass


Kantarelli vase

Laminate bowl

Composition flatware

Bottles for Venini

Rare coffee table

Knife and scabbard

Pendant lamps




  1. Love the work of Wirkkala there was the Venini bottle on the far right (green and straw coloured one) recently at an auction here, passed in at the first auction attempt, but sold on the second.....much smaller than I imagined it would be though.....but not the price!!$900.

    1. I've always wanted one of the Venini bottles, but the prices are so prohibitive! Interesting information about the size. I always imagined them to be very large.

  2. So many great pieces. Interesting how the Kantarelli vase and laminate bowl are two expressions of one design idea.

    1. I had never noticed that before! Yes, very interesting.

  3. The only book I've found on Wirkkala was published by the Finnish Society of Craft and Design in conjunction with their 1985 exhibit. It's 210 pages, simply titled "Tapio Wirkkala," and highlights the artist's themes and design approach with photos, most in black and white, many taken by Wirkkala himself. The brief text details his biography and development within the context of Finnish design at midcentury. It's not a reference for collectors, but those interested in Wirkkala's studio work, process, and a portrait of the artist will find it helpful.

    1. I've never run across that book, but it sounds as if it would be an excellent source. Have you seen the video I linked to this page? I found it very interesting.