Tapio Wirkkala - Eye, Hand and Thought

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Tapio Wirkkala - Eye, Hand and Thought sheds light on one of the most distinctive and successful characters of Finnish design. Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985) had an exceptional sense of material and form, and besides glass, he worked with various materials including wood, metal and ceramic. The book presents a complete catalogue of Wirkkala’s works with hundreds of colour and black-and-white photographs, and the insightful articles tell stories behind the objects. First released in 2000, the book was edited by Marianne Aav and published by Design Museum Helsinki and WSOY.

Tapio Wirkkala is the symbolic figure of Finnish design. He was an artist of exceptional diversity for whom no material was alien and who left no area of design unexplored. His works ranged in size from postage stamps to future cities, from salmon-flies to earthwork monuments.

In his work, contrasting materials were imbued with the incontestable forms found in natural phenomena. An object achieves perfection through the unity of thought and material, idea and realisation, form and purpose. For Wirkkala, the form of an object was not just an aesthetic goal or intellectual perception, but the outcome of a dialogue between hand, eye and material:

"All materials have their own unwritten laws... You should never be violent with the material you’re working on, and the designer should aim at being in harmony with his material."

The idioms in Wirkkala's objects are normally derived from nature, sometimes from the shape of a leaf, ridge, whirlpool or seashell, sometimes the shape of a bird. Most often the natural essence is so deeply buried that its origin can no longer be recognised or explained in words, almost as though he had cast a poetic spell over his works.

Tapio Wirkkala combined craftsmanship with industrial mass production, artistic form with anonymous series, rustic simplicity with cosmopolitan elegance, emotion with perception, playful experimentation with responsibility. His objects exhibit both a sculptural concept of form and a studied scientific utility, simultaneously unique and bound to tradition.

Although Wirkkala's artworks and objects are to be found in the world's leading museums, Finns have used his anonymous utility objects for decades. As his name is normally associated with luxurious decorative objects, few know that he also designed the everyday banknotes, ketchup, beer and vodka bottles.

Tapio Wirkkala also worked abroad, in particular in Italy, Germany and Mexico. His modesty, industry and professional skill overcome all language and other barriers, whether working with traditional Murano glassblowers or Mexican silversmiths.

Marianne Aav
Rauno Träskelin
Publication year:
27,5 x 23 cm