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“Ultima Thule” Tapio Wirkkala

Friday, March 8, 2013

A dinner service “Ultima Thule” made by Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala in 1968 was the most attractive object in design part of the Stedelijk museum. Tapio was a post-modern designer/sculptor. He was designing jewelery, ceramics, furniture for mass production, individual sculptures. One of his most famous design is for example a Finlandic vodka bottle.The dinner service was designed for the IIttala, a popular shop which collects Scadinavian designs of products for living, dining, decorating and giving. Tapio designed more than 400 different art glass objects and glassware series for iittala. The old term “Ultima Thule” meant the most northern, most demanding and at the same time most venerated place in the world. Tapio Wirkkala was directly inspired but the Arctic mystique, Finland’s wintry landscape and glassclear ice. The glasses was intended to represent the dripping and refreezing ice drops from the glacial landscapes of Finland. The technique for making these beautiful objects is called the ice glass technique, and Wirkkala himself was involved in developing and perfecting it over a period of many years. This techniqueis is achieved by blowing the glass into a wooden mold. The trick is to know when to stop blowing as the colours and patterns change as the hot glass burns the wooden surface of the mold as it begins to cool. For me personally the service looks like it was left for the whole summer night in the garden and  covered it the morning with a dew underneath. It gives me immediately the impression of having a water on my hands and the smell of a beautiful summer morning, feels like holidays.  The piece reminds me also of the work by Hans Haacke “condensation cube”. “Ultima  Thule” I can also relate to my grand mother’s desert plates. They were not exact same copies of the Wirkkala’s piece. They had more linear structure but the surface of the glass feelt the same when you touch both the objects. In my opinion it is definitely one of the best glass designs made in 19th century.

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