Timo Sarpaneva (1926 – 2006) Finnish Glass Designer

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Casserole cast iron and teak (1959) designed by Timo Sarpaneva
Casserole cast iron and teak (1959) designed by Timo Sarpaneva

Timo Sarpaneva (1926-2006) was one of Finland’s greatest glass designers. He also had a lot of success in the related fields of sculpture, painting, and graphic design. He could work with a lot of different materials, such as porcelain, iron, and plastic. The Suomi dinnerware service (for Rosenthal) and a cast-iron cooking pot with a lid that was removable with a wooden handle that acted as a lever, are two of his most famous designs from the 1970s (today available at littala). Despite his versatility, the glass remained Sarpaneva’s prefered medium.

Developed New Techniques

Sarpaneva employed the steam-blowing process to make a series of art glass pieces for littala in the early 1950s. This procedure was used for the first time in an artistic environment. The Orkidea (Orchid) vase, one of his most well-known works, has been dubbed “the most beautiful vase in the world.” Similarly, the l-line collection was unique. Sarpaneva bridges the gap between high-end art glass and mass-produced objects with this set of bottles, glasses, and plates. The Finlandia art-glass collection, which was created using a revolutionary wood-burning process that created an ice-like impression on the surface of the glass, was followed in the 1980s by the Claritas vase series, which combines the poetry of ice and water through drop shapes and irregular air bubbles.

Selection of Collection

Biography (Outline)

  • From 1955—56 he was artistic director of Pori Puuvilla Cotton Mill. 
  • From 1959-63, he designed cast-iron cookware and wrapping papers at W. Rosenlew.  
  • From 1960—62, he designed ryiy rugs at Villayhtyma. 
  • In 1962, he set up his own studio. 
  • In 1963, he designed candles at Juhava.  
  • In 1964, metalware at Primo; 
  • From 1964—72, worked at Ab Kinnassand textile mill, Sweden; 
  • In 1968, designed plastics for Ensto, and glass for Corning, USA, and firms in Venini, Italy. 

An innovator of techniques and forms, he worked in the factories of his clients in order to gain mastery of the process and learn from the technicians who produced his wares. His 1968 Ambiente fabric range was printed on both sides of the fabric in a process he invented. 

  • In 1970, he designed textiles at Tampella; and metalware for Opa; From 1970, was a freelance designer at Rosenthal. 
  • From the mid-1950s, he taught textile com- position and printing at the Taideteollinen Korkealoulu in Hel- sinki. 
  • Sarpaneva designed the 1955 H 55 exhibition at Halsingborg, the Finnish section of the 1957 (XI) Triennale di Milano, the 1961 ‘Finlandia’ exhibition in London, and the Finnish section of the 1967 Montreal ‘Universal and International Exhibition (Expo ’67).”


  • Received prizes at the 1951 (IX) (silver medal), 
  • 1954 (X) (grand prize), 1957 (XI) (two grand prizes), and 1960 (XII) (silver and gold medals) Triennali di Milano, 
  • 1956 USA ‘American Young Scandinavian Exhibition’ (two first-place awards), 
  • 1956 Lunning Prize, 
  • 1958 Pro Finlandia Prize, 
  • 1985 State Award for Industrial Arts, and Eurostar Prize. 
  • In 1963, was elected Honorary Royal Designer for Industry; 
  • In 1967, honorary doctorate, Royal College of Art, London; in 1976, Academia de Diseno, Mexico City.


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

Polster, B. (2006). The A to Z of modern design. Merrell.

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