Tapio Wirkkala Biography

Tapio Wirkkala
Tapio Wirkkala
Classic Designs » Designers » Tapio Wirkkala Biography

Tapio Wirkkala – Hanko 1915 – 1985 Helsinki (Finland) 

Tapio Wirkkala started his career in designing glassware for Iittala. Most famous of his early glass items is perhaps Kanttarelli (Chanterelle, 1946) with the carved lines.

Tapio Wirkkala - Kanttarelli Vase
Tapio Wirkkala – Kanttarelli Vase

He was a freelance designer for several companies for example in 1960s Wirkkala designed coloured glassware and fligran glass for Venini and for example, a series of tableware and vases for Rosenthal during 1956-85.

Wirkkala made his first sculptures of laminated wood in the beginning of 1950s. The magazine House Beautiful mentioned the plate Leaf as the most beautiful item in the world.

Tapio Wirkkala - Leaf
Tapio Wirkkala – Leaf

Wirkkala designed also large scale sculptures like Pyörre and later the enormous relief Ultima Thule which was displayed at the Montreal World Fair in 1967. The relief symbolized the Finnish wood-processing industry. In the 1950s Wirkkala also designed tables with plywood intarsia decorations and chairs for Asko.

One of the many materials which Wirkkala worked with was metal. He designed knives for Hackman and vases and serving products of silver for Kultakeskus. He designed also jewellery of silver and gold which were produced by Kultakeskus.

Wirkkala didn´t only design luxorious art objects but also every day objects such as a ketchup bottle and the service Caravelle made of melamine for Finnair. He was a graphic designer who designed several labels for wine bottles, posters, stamps and notes.

Wirkkala designed exhibitions for the Finnish pavilions at 1952 and 1954 Triennali de Milano and Expo 58 in Brussels.

Tapio Wirkkala’s awards included: Gold medals and a grand prize at the 1947 Triennale di Milano; grand prizes at 1954; grand prize and gold medal at 1960; silver medal at 1963 Triennale di Milano; Lunning prize, 1963.

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Written by Simon
I am a published writer, journalist and photo-journalist. I have an MA in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales and my journalism has been published in a number of UK national newspapers including 'the Observer'. I have life long interest in creative design, art and function and this website is an exploration of that in all its forms and guises.