Kaj Franck Finnish textile and glassware designer

Kaj Franck shot glasses
Kaj Franck shot glasses

Kaj Franck was a Finnish textile and glassware designer and ceramicist. He was born in Viipuri, Finland. Often referred to as the “conscience of Finnish design,” Franck tried to construct what he called the “optimal object,” one that represented the ideal relationship between man and the mass-produced commodity. His products remain among the most successful in modern design history because they synthesise both utility and aesthetics with the utmost refinement and continue to look as contemporary today as they did when they were first introduced.

Education

 Between 1929-32, he studied in the furniture department, Taideteollinen Korkeakoulu, Helsinki. 

Biography

He worked initially as a freelance designer. Between 1933-45, he designed lighting and textiles. 

Between 1945-73, he was a designer at Arabia pottery, Helsinki, becoming artistic director in 1950.

From 1946-50, he was a designer at Iittala glassworks, and from 1950- 68 at Nuutaj√§rvi-Notsjo glassworks. 

From 1945 he was a teacher, Taideteollmen Korkeakoulu, and, 1960-68, its art director

Salt and Pepper Shakers 1947 designed by Kaj Franck
Salt and Pepper Shakers 1947 designed by Kaj Franck

In c1950, when Nuutäjarvi-Notsjo merged with the Wartsila group, he produced his first glassware designs.

His unbreakable 1952 Kilta was considered a revolution in everyday tableware and a classic Finnish design object. More than 25 million pieces of it were sold. 

Later reissued, it was chosen for the cafeteria of the Picasso Museum, Paris. 

Tumbler (2746) 1954 designed by Kay Franck
Tumbler (2746) 1954 designed by Kay Franck

In 1973, Franck left Arabia; in 1978, left the Wartsila group. From 1979, he was a full-time designer, sometimes working for the Wärtsila group (Arabia, Nuutajärvi, and sanitary porcelain and enamel).

Kilta Storage Container 1948 by Kaj Franck
Kilta Storage Container 1948 by Kaj Franck

He designed 1979 Pitop√∂yt√§ae plastic plate and bowl range produced by Sarvis and 1981 Theema black or white stoneware. 

Recognition

He received the following awards and recognition;

  • Prizes at 1951 (IX) (gold medal)
  • 1954 (X) ( two diplomas of honour)
  • 1957 (XI) (grand prize) Triennali di Milano
  • 1955 Lunning Prize;
  • 1957 Premio Compasso d’Oro
  • 1957 Pro Finlandia;
  • 1965 Prince Eugen Medal
  • 1977 Finnish State Award for Industrial Arts;
  • 1983 honorary doctorate, Royal College of Art, London

Work included in exhibitions in 

  • 1955, Gothenburg; in 
  • 1956, Copenhagen; 
  • 1954-57 USA ‘Design in Scandinavia,’ H√§lsingborg (Sweden); 
  • 1956-59 West Germany ‘Finnish Exhibition’; 
  • 1958 ‘Formes Scandinaves, Paris Musee des Arts Decoratifs; 
  • 1961 ‘Finlandia, Zurich, Amsterdam, and London. 

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

KAJ FRANCK: DESIGNER April 16 – October 12, 1992. Museum of Modern Art. https://assets.moma.org/documents/moma_press-release_327623.pdf?_ga=2.265095951.1060488068.1613357271-1432650367.1613357271.

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