Most of us Finns can find a classic vase designed by Alvar Aalto at home. Today marks the 45th anniversary of the death of Alvar Aalto and in his memory I present the birth of the Aalto vase.

Alvar Aalto
Finnish Architect Alvar Aalto. Image: Wikipedia

The Aalto vase, or Savoy vase, is a glass vase designed in 1936 by Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino Aalto. They won the design competition for the vase organized by the Karhula-Iittala glass factory in 1936. The vase was presented the following year at the Paris World’s Fair. All vases are manufactured at the Iittala glass factory in Hämeenlinna.

The Aalto vase has been described as an icon of Finnish design and has been said to be one of the world’s best-known glass objects and the world’s best-known vase.

The designers got their inspiration for the vase from the traditional costume of the Sámi women, and the design of the vase is based on plans whose working name was Eskimo leather pants. The idea for the shape of the vase came from the clothing of the Eskimos and their folds.

The name Savoy vase derives from the Savoy restaurant in Helsinki, which bought the rights to the vase. The vase produced nothing financially, as the rights belonged to the glass factory owned by A. Ahlström, which had organized a design competition before selling the vase to Savoy. Harry Gullichsen, director of A. Ahlström, hired Alvar Aalto to design the interior of the Savoy restaurant on the 7th and 8th floors of the Ahlström Industrial Palace.

Originally, the vase was made by mouth blowing into a wooden mold. The surface of the vase then became rougher, wavy, and rippled. Today, a metal mold is used to make the surface much smoother. Aalto vases were made with wooden molds back in the early 1970s and some of the vases are still made with wooden molds. Making one vase requires 7 professionals. Hundreds of thousands of Aalto vases have been sold. Its model pieces are also on display at several design museums around the world, such as MoMa at New York.

The classic Aalto vases are available in different colors and sizes. The Aalto vases designed by Alvar Aalto are the best-selling products from Iittala, Finland. I have several different sizes of Aalto -vases at home, but below is a picture of my favorite bought at Nordic.Design in U.S.A.

Do you have an Aalto -vase at home? If you wish, you can leave a message and a picture in the comment field below.