Tapio Wirkkala

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Tapio Wirkkala
Wirkkala, about 1959
Born(1915-06-02)2 June 1915
Hanko, Finland
Died19 May 1985(1985-05-19) (aged 69)
Helsinki, Finland
SpouseRut Bryk

Tapio Veli Ilmari Wirkkala (2 June 1915 – 19 May 1985) was a Finnish designer and sculptor, a major figure of post-war design.

Life and work[edit]

Wirkkala was born in Hanko in 1915. He attended the Töölö co-educational school in Helsinki. His father, Ilmari Wirkkala, was a cemetery architect, and mother Selma (née Vanhatalo) a wood-carver. His sister Helena Korvenkontio and brother Tauno Wirkkala were also artists.[1]

Wirkkala's work ranges from designs of plastic ketchup bottles and metalware to glass, ceramics and plywood in a range of styles. His success as a glass designer began in 1946 when he designed the Kantarelli vase for Iittala, and the mass-produced Tapio collection was launched in 1954. His range was immense, including glassware, stoneware, jewellery, and furniture for mass production, as well as individual sculptures in several media. He designed commemorative postage stamps[2] for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, and also designed the Finnish markka banknotes introduced in 1955. In the early 1950s, Wirkkala worked as the artistic director at the Helsinki Central School of Industrial Design.[3] The WIR lightbulb designed by Wirkkala for Airam Electric [fi] was awarded the Grand Prix at the XII Milan Triennial in 1960.[4]

Among his most famous work have been the designs for the Finlandia vodka bottle (1970–1999)[5] and for Iittala's Ultima Thule set of kitchen glasses.[6] Both glassware items feature a dripping icicle look, and in the case of the Iittala's glassware it is said to have taken thousands of hours to develop a glassblowing technique that would produce the effect.[7]

Wirkkala did much of his initial design work using a traditional Finnish carving knife, the puukko. Wirkkala designed his own version of the knife, the Tapio Wirkkala Puukko, which was manufactured by Hackman Cutlery and marketed by Brookstone in the US in the early-1970s.[8]

Wirkkala died in Helsinki on 19 May 1985 and was buried in the artists' area of the Hietaniemi Cemetery; his wife, Rut Bryk, was later buried next to him.[9]

Awards and distinctions[edit]



  1. ^ "Wirkkala, Tapio (1915–1985)". National Biography of Finland. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Exhibition TAPIO WIRKKALA | Museo del Vetro Murano | MUVE". Museo del Vetro (in Italian). 2019-03-05. Retrieved 2022-11-28.
  3. ^ "Tapio Wirkkala design". www.finnishdesignshop.com. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  4. ^ "WIR lampan som Tapio Wirkkala" (PDF). Nortronic AS (in Norwegian).
  5. ^ Vodka, Finlandia (Jan 27, 2010). "Finlandia Vodka Celebrates 40th Anniversary". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  6. ^ Vaija, Mikko (23 October 2017). "Ultima Thule and the feel of material | Design Stories". Finnish Design Shop COM. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  7. ^ Dunn, William (20 October 2020). "Design classics: the stories behind the legends". The Week UK. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  8. ^ "knife; sheath". The British Museum. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  9. ^ "Taiteilijainmäki V21A". Helsingin seurakuntayhtymä. 25 April 2015. Archived from the original on 14 July 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2022.
  10. ^ "Finland 5 Markka banknote 1963". World Banknotes and Coins. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  11. ^ a b Richardson, Lucy Ryder (27 September 2019). "Tapio Wirkkala". Inside Modernism. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  12. ^ Wagner, Juergen. "Postage stamps Olympic Games 1952 Helsinki". Archived from the original on 2013-02-04.
  13. ^ a b Forth, Jonas (26 July 2015). "The golden age of Finnish design at the Triennales". Forthzine. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  14. ^ "the Lunning Prize". danish architecture and design review.
  15. ^ "Tapio Wirkkala - The Soul of Finland". Skandium London. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  16. ^ a b "Tapio Wirkkala: Applying the Finnish approach to design". thisisFINLAND.
  17. ^ "Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala holding his award from the Society of..." Getty Images. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  18. ^ "Tapio Wirkkala". ANIBOU. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Avards".

External links[edit]