Timo SARPANEVA Finland, 1926-2006


Post-war design in Finland gained worldwide acclaim due in no small measure to the designs of Timo Sarpaneva for Iittala which hired him in 1951. In the field of Scandinavian glass, with its tradition of form and function prescribing tableware, Sarpaneva's abstract sculptural approach to glass forms resonated with the Finnish preference for aesthetic exercises in glass design over functional glassware, validated by the Milan Triennale awarding Sarpaneva a Grand Prix in 1954. This same year also saw the launch of Sarpaneva's reputation in the United States, as his 'Orchid' glass sculpture was selected by House Beautiful magazine as the "Most Beautiful Object of the Year". 


Sarpaneva's remarkable work in a multitude of media - glass, wood, metal, ceramics, and fibre - are his palpable response to the rugged beauty and artistic tradition of his native Finland. Janet Kardon, former director of the American Craft Museum, explains, "Sarpaneva draws his inspiration from nature, combining a thorough mastery of process, a respect for materials and a distinctive visual language to create a diverse universe of smooth, organic forms and jagged edges, brilliant reflective surfaces and crystalline depths." Sarpaneva's experiences as a child with snow and ice inspired the frosted and jagged edges of his 'Finlandia' series, and the softened, organic forms of his 'Devil's Pearl' and 'Pothole' works - the expression of the visual and emotive qualities of this mutable material is a constant thread throughout Sarpaneva's glass designs.