This post is also available in: Suomi
Iittala Glass Factory Manufactures Finnish Design
Glass made in Finland is long lasting and is frequently passed down through the generations from parents to their children. Glass items hold many memories, but they are also a piece of art history; this art history can be explored during your visit to the beautiful Häme region and is an absolute must on your to do list when you visit Finland and take a day trip from Helsinki, for example.
I vividly remember the time when I was told that I would be moving into my first home. To help set up my new residence my grandmother started digging out her old crockery for me. As the sun reflected off the beautiful glass plates from Iittala’s Kastehelmi “dew pearl” classic glass tableware range, I wondered what all that old but still timeless crockery had seen over the intervening years.
I learned that my grandmother’s crockery had been used at both my and my mother’s christening, my grandfather’s 50th birthday and on many other special occasions.
I was instrested to know how long had the Iittala Kastehelmi series existed? My grandmother could not answer that question, and I did not think about it anymore at the time. However, years later, the question popped into my mind again when I visited a friend of mine who offered me ice cream in a green Kastehelmi dessert bowl.
As I admired the bowl that sat perfectly amidst the harmonious table setting, I learned that Iittala’s Kastehelmi has been available in many different colours since the early 1960s.
Magic of Glassblowing
The story of glass has become more and more of an interest to me. When I realised that you can still see glassblowers at work at Iittala’s factory and shop outlet in Iittala Village, I decided to visit there on my next day off.
I left my car in the car park and headed towards the glass factory. As I entered the factory the glassblowing sounds that greeted me were so enchanting that I immediately climbed up to the visitor’s viewing balcony and watched a clear Aalto vase take shape.
Iittala is visited by many groups and I followed a guide who told a group of school children about the history of the place, and about how much of the glassware is still handmade; you can also try glassblowing for yourself. Iittala is the oldest glass factory in Finland and littala’s design history dates right back to 1881.
As the school children continued downstairs, I headed towards the factory shop outlet located next to the glass factory.
Shaped by Tears
At the door of the shop, I ran into a glassblower who asked me if I had seen the glass fairies? As we walked together the glassblower told me an enchanting story about these mythical creatures.
The gist of the story was that glass fairies are born from glassblowers’ tears that drop onto glass shards. The tears that glass fairies are born from are close to being perfect, yet the glass fairies eventually break or lose their shape.
The story continues that although glass fairies do not last long, they are born again because the glassblower can blow a small glass heart into them to sustain life.
I asked if his own tears have created to fairies, but he just smiled, winked his eye and walked away wishing me a good day.
Story of Kastehelmi
At the factory shop, I am greeted by a happy employee and I learn that you can buy glassware, cutlery, plates and other interior decoration products.
I admired the Moomin mugs for a while but eventually decide to buy a Kastehelmi serving plate. The sales assistant told me that Kastehelmi is a design by Oiva Toikka, first released in 1964.
The sales assistant noticed my interest in the history of glassblowing and advised me to visit the museum. I headed towards Iittala’s Design Museum and as soon as I stepped in and saw the different glass items, my memories took over. It felt like I had gone back to my childhood summer days and I was happily reminded of the blueberry mush that my grandmother used to make.
Finnish glass museum in Riihimäki is a short drive away from the Iittala Design Museum. As well as exhibiting littala glassware designs the Finnish glass museum also features glassware products from other Finnish glass manufacturers. I became more and more enthralled by the glassware on display and I immediately decided to drive home via Riihimäki.
As I was driving, I was thinking that the Kastehelmi serving plate that I had just bought would be perfect for serving blueberry pie on when my grandparents next come to visit and I tell them about my incredible trip through the history of Finnish glass.