Ilmari Tapiovaara is best known for his interior and furniture design. Most people are familiar with the Domus chair and Pirkka collection, but did you know that Tapiovaara also designed lamps? One of the most beautiful is Maija, which is currently part of Santa & Cole’s selection.
FINNISH DESIGNER ILMARI TAPIOVAARA designed the Maija Mehiläinen lamp in 1955. For the lamp’s shade, which resembles a beehive, Tapiovaara got the inspiration from the children’s book Maya the Bee (Maija Mehiläinen in Finnish) by the Austrian German author Waldemar Bonsels, hence the name of the lamp. The original name of the children’s book, published in 1912, is Die Biene Maja.
The columnar and rhythmic shape of the Maija lamp is composed of several superimposed metal discs that filter the light softly, and without a glare, into the surrounding space. The first Maija lamp that was launched was a table lamp, and it was accompanied by pendant lamps of various sizes as well as two different floor lamps a few years later.
The Finnish company Hienoteräs manufactured original Maija lamps until the 1960s.
The Maija Mehiläinen lamps were originally manufactured by Finnish Hienoteräs, and they also were part of the selection of the Finnish furniture manufacturer Asko at least until the 1960s. Nowadays, the original Maija lamps manufactured by Hienoteräs are valuable, sought-after collector’s items, both in Finland and the international design market.
The story of the Maija Mehiläinen lamps continued in the 1990s, when the Spanish publishing and design company Santa & Cole contacted the Finnish art and design historian Pekka Korvenmaa about a special book series. Santa & Cole wanted to publish a book about an internationally known Finnish designer, and Korvenmaa ended up choosing Ilmari Tapiovaara as the subject of the book. The design department of the Spanish university Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, located in Barcelona, also participated in the book project.
Today, Ilmari Tapiovaara’s Maija luminaires are part of Santa & Cole’s collection.
A three-year period of research and writing began in 1994, and during that time, most of Ilmari Tapiovaara’s career was compiled into a single volume. In connection with the publication of the Tapiovaara book, Santa & Cole also took the Maija lamp into production and launched it in its Design Classics collection in a few different versions. The Maija lamps are currently available in white as well as nude rose that resembles the original tone.
Text: Elina Tuokko Images: Santa & Cole