At the turn of the 20th century, a group of Scandinavian designers began to challenge deep-rooted ideals that ‘good design’ was purely decorative, ornamental and reserved for the elite. Instead, they held the belief that products should be functional, made with the finest materials by the best craftsmen, timeless in their style and, perhaps most importantly, they should be accessible for all.
At the forefront of this was Iittala, a brand that had revolutionary Finnish designers Kaj Franck and Alvar and Aino Aalto at the helm. Starting out as a glass factory in the Finnish village bearing the same name, Iittala made the move into making glassware designed to enrich everyday life and bring beauty into the ordinary.
In the 1950s, the now-iconic Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala — famous for his subtler and more natural interpretation of modernism — began working with Iittala and would go on to create one of the most famous series of glassware of its time. Named Ultima Thule and first released in 1968, this collection of glass tumblers, pitchers, bowls and more captured the essence of Finland and its extreme terrains quite unlike any other. Each piece of the Ultima Thule collection featured a distinctive organic texture and surface that resembled dripping icicles, drawing inspiration from the surroundings of Wirkkala’s almost-inaccessible cottage in far north Lapland.
As with every piece from Iittala, attention to detail was (and still is) just as important as the design itself. After creating this unique and intricate pattern, Wirkkala worked with highly-skilled glassblowers who spent thousands of hours perfecting their technique, ensuring the glassware had the desired effect and didn’t compromise on the quality of the finished product.
It’s now 50 years since Iittala introduced us to Ultima Thule and in keeping with the brand’s ideals, it’s a collection that’s still very relevant today. In celebration of the 50-year anniversary, Iittala has released the series in a new dark blue colour – aptly named ‘Rain’ – evoking images of dark Finnish nights and wild, wintry landscapes. Just like the original, no doubt we’ll be holding onto this collection for years to come.