Aalto vase, still crafted by its original mouth-blown process

Published on January 19, 2016

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Born in Kuortane in 1898, Alvar Aalto made his name as a master of modern architecture through his unique style and exceptional talent. He worked closely with his wife Aino Aalto.

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Aalto designed concert halls, libraries, hospitals, museums and private homes, among others, all around the world. His works were exhibited in the New York Museum of Modern Art already in the 1930s. Aalto also designed several objects which were originally intended to become parts of buildings and decorations. However, the objects took on a life of their own.

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The Aalto Vase, also known as the Savoy Vase, is a piece of glassware created by Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino Marsio that has become an internationally known iconic piece of Finnish design. It became known as the Savoy vase because it was one of a range of custom furnishings and fixtures created by Alvar Aalto and Aino for the luxury Savoy restaurant in Helsinki that opened in 1937.

The vase was also designed as an entry in a design competition for the Ahlström owned Karhula-Iittala glassworks factory in 1936. The design was inspired by the dress of a Sami woman. Called Eskimåkvinnans skinnbyxa (the Eskimo woman’s leather breech), the design consisted of a series of crayon drawings on cardboard and scratch paper. Aalto created initial prototypes by blowing glass in the middle of a composition of wooden sticks stuck into the ground, letting the molten glass swell on only some sides and creating a wavy outline. The initial manufacture of the vase was not without problems and the original idea of using molds made of thin steel sheets forced together to form closed sinuous shapes had to be abandoned. The vase was originally manufactured by the glassworks factory using a wood mold which was slowly burned away.

This vase was later displayed for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris and the original height of the Savoy vase was 140 mm.

Aalto never made money with the vase, because the design belonged to the factory for which the design competition entry was produced.

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The vase has been manufactured in nearly a full spectrum of colours. The simplicity of the vase continues to be popular in the 21st century. Smaller versions of the vase, just as Aalto designed them with the seams visible and a slight curve at the base, are still produced by glasspressing at the Iittala glass factory in Iittala, Finland. Larger versions are made using Aalto’s design, but without seams.

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Every Aalto vase is still crafted by its original mouth-blown process by Finland’s most skilled glassblowers at Iittala.

What started as a glass factory in Iittala, Finland, today celebrates generations of essential objects that are made to enrich people’s everyday lives. They believe objects should be distinctive, combinable and multi-functional, with lasting design that inspires individual use and expression.

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