Glass design has a long history in Finnish culture – take a trip on the glass trail and immerse yourself in innovative art, and a little retail therapy.
The glass trail winds from Helsinki to the north via Riihimäki and Iittala to Nuutajärvi or through Fiskars to Muurla. It’s a year-round experience not to be missed – you can visit glassworks and studios, museums and exhibitions, watch glassblowers and artists at work, pick up souvenirs from the outlets and galleries and get to know Finland’s rich history of world-famous glass designs and their groundbreaking, individualistic creators.
Contrasts are the main ingredient in Finnish cultural life – like running from a hot sauna to an icy lake, we embrace them to the fullest.
For many Finns life without design glass seems almost unimaginable. For a non-Finn to understand this, it’s best to start with a visit to Anu Penttinen’s Gallery Nounou situated in Helsinki’s design district Punavuori. Like many Finnish designers, she works for Iittala, Finland’s leading glass design company whose glassware is present in virtually every Finnish household. A visit to its flagship store on the Esplanade (Pohjoisesplanadi 25) is a must, as well as an excursion to the Design Museum.
Another key trip is a visit to Helsinki’s other design district, Arabianranta. Here sits the elegantly designed Arabia Center, which houses Iittala’s headquarters and its outlet, the Arabia Museum, and a host of other designer shops.
Glass design has a future in Finland
The Aalto University in Helsinki, one of the leading European centres of Art and Design, teaches glass design.
Photo: Aalto University/ Julia Weckman
Riihimäki: Finnish glass in all its glory
For more profound and captivating insights into the 300-year-old history of Finnish glass production and glass art, visit the Glass Museum Riihimäki. The museum also organizes various exhibitions of Finnish and foreign glass artists, as well as concerts, flea and glass markets. And don’t miss the nearby glassblowing district “Hyttikortteli” with its historic houses. Go and take look at hot shop and gallery Lasismi in the old glass factory and witness the delicate art of glassblowing first-hand.
Muurla – glass lovers’ paradise
Outwardly unassuming, the stylishly furnished outlet of the glass works Muurla is a gem little known to most tourists. You will find reasonably priced eateries along with a wealth of glassware and interior decoration by such renowned designers as Ristomatti Ratia and Jukka Rintala.
At the Muurla shop, situated close to road to Turku, the love of the Moomins shines on the diners. However, you find not only Moomin lamps there but also a wealth of other wonderful glass and ceramics from Muurla’s production.
At Fiskars – Finland’s nature contributes to glass making
In the romantic village of Fiskars you find plenty of design glass, for instance, in Gallery Sirius and in the Co-operative Onoma or the Glass studio Blu Bianco where Tarmo Maaronen, who worked with the two Finnish glass masters Kaj Franck and Oiva Toikka, presents his creations, organizes courses for glassblowing and lets you watch him work.
Wood, water and quartz are the basic elements to manufacture glass. Finland has all those in abundance and the Fiskars shop in Fiskars village demonstrates it.
Iittala – work in progress
The village of Iittala gave the glassware producer Iittala their name. On the glass hill, at the Iittala Glass Centre, tour Iittala’s main plant, watch the making of its signature glassware, stroll through the delightful museum that displays legendary classics or shop at the outlet.
Making glassware is a time consuming, complex process. You may find that the great designer Kaj Franck was right when he said, “A serial production design should be one of which people don’t grow tired.” (Photo: Timo Junttila/Fiskars Group)
Design Museum – a must for design lovers
Kaj Franck’s universal glass design forms on display at the Design Museum in Helsinki. To this day Finland produces highly imaginative and original glass designers. In the summer 2013 the Museum features Franck, Tapio Wirkkala, Timo Saparneva and other talented Finnish glass artists. (Photo: Rauno Träskelin/Finnish Design Museum)
Nuutajärvi café – to nourish both body and soul
The glass village of Nuutajärvi with its picturesque buildings is home to Finland’s oldest glassworks and largest community of independent glass designers, glassblowers and a glass school. Check out their hotshops, studios and galleries like Gallery NuGO. Maybe try your hand at glassblowing yourself.
A must is also a visit to the factory’s marvelous museum by Kaj Franck. And you can even spend the night in the village.
The renowned glass artist, Anu Penttinen, runs the enchanted designer café in the village of Nuutajärvi in summertime. Other places for glass lovers like Riihimäki, Iittala, Fiskars and Muurla offer cozy cafes and restaurants too.esif
Nuutajärvi factory outlet – a treat for the eyes and a joy for bargain hunters
The former warehouse, one of the listed 19th century buildings in the village of Nuutajärvi, is now home to the factory outlet of Iittala and other companies of the Fiskars Group. You find these paradises for glass design hunters also in Helsinki, Riihimäki, Iittala, Fiskars and Muurla.
(Photo: Marika Kinnunen / courtesy of NuGo)
Finnish glass design and glass art – witty and inventive
Glassblowing might sound like a blast from the past – but the profession is still up and running in Finland.