Tapio Wirkkala (1913 – 1985) Finland’s leading designer

Tapio Wirkkala Tumblers (model 2064) c. 1956
Tapio Wirkkala Tumblers (model 2064) c. 1956

Tapio Wirkkala is widely regarded as one of Finland’s most influential designers. Wirkkala began his career as a sculptor in Helsinki, where he studied from 1933 to 1936. Even though WWII disrupted his early career as a sculptor and graphic designer, he won a glass competition run by the Iittala company in 1946. The same year he won a competition to design banknotes for the Bank of Finland.

He obtained particular notice at the IX Milan Triennale in 1951, where he won three Grand Prix, a feat he repeated at the X Triennale in 1954, where he won three Grand Prix once more, and the XII Triennale in 1960, where he received a Grand Prix and a Gold Medal. His reputation was cemented in Scandinavia, where he shared the first Lunning Prize for architecture with Hans Wagner in 1951.

He became well-known in the 1950s for his organic, fluid designs in glass and ceramics, which he first illustrated with his Kantarelli vase series in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1954, he moved to the United States, where he researched American mass manufacturing techniques at Raymond Loewy Associates in New York. His design work encompassed a wide range of disciplines, including lighting and cutlery. He worked for the German ceramics company Rosenthal from 1956 until his death and designing for the Venini glass company from the late 1950s onwards.

Selection of Works

Tapio Wirkkala Platter 1951
Tapio Wirkkala Platter 1951
Tapio Wirkkala Puukko Knife and Sheath 1961
Tapio Wirkkala Puukko Knife and Sheath 1961
Tapio Wirkkala Incandescent Bulb (model 85) 1959
Tapio Wirkkala Incandescent Bulb (model 85) 1959
Tapio Wirkkala Bowl 1957
Tapio Wirkkala Bowl 1957

Sources

Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

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