Oiva Toikka's Aili glass bird graces Finnish Design Shop's anniversary collection

The Aili glass bird, designed by Oiva Toikka in celebration of 15 years of Finnish Design Shop, is sure to become a treasured collector's item. In May, Design Stories visited Iittala's glass factory to observe how skillful glass blowers shape the bird. See the video at the end of the article!

Iittala Birds by Toikka Aili
The Aili Bird, designed by Oiva Toikka, is part of the Finnish Design Shop's 15th anniversary collection.

THE MUCH-LOVED GLASS ARTIST, Oiva Toikka, designed a charming glass bird called Aili for Finnish Design Shop's 15th anniversary collection. The beautiful grey Birds By Toikka Aili is already a sought-after collector's item: the birds have been produced in a numbered, 300-piece series and will be sold exclusively by Finnish Design Shop from 3 September.

Oiva Toikka determined the size of the Aili bird and chose the distinguished grey color, adding a splash of shiny luster on the beak in honor of Finnish Design Shop’s anniversary year.

In May, Design Stories visited the Iittala glass factory located near Hämeenlinna. While there, we witnessed how the final shape of the Aili bird was fashioned from glowing, molten glass.

Oiva Toikka added a splash of shiny luster on the beak in honor of Finnish Design Shop’s anniversary year.

Iittala Birds by Toikka Aili
Molten glass is taken from the furnace on the tip of a blowpipe. The mass on the blowpipe's tip is then rolled smooth on a marver. The hot glass is shaped using metal and wooden tools.
Iittala Birds by Toikka Aili
The glass blower has a hot, molten glass mass on the tip of the blowpipe. A mold is used to create the dome shape of the bird.
Iittala Birds by Toikka Aili
The dome-shaped body is heated in preparation of the addition of the head.

Aili, from start to finish, was made in Iittala's glass factory in Finland. The efforts of several highly skilled experts are required in order to make Aili and other Toikka birds. The number of workers involved varies with the shape, size and decorative details of the bird in question. A three-person team worked on Aili.

“Each bird showcases Professor Oiva Toikka's creativity and the handicraft skills of Iittala's glass blowers. Mouth-blowing these birds requires talent, years of experience and deep understanding of the materials. It's fantastic that Finnish Design Shop received its own, unique bird in honor of its anniversary,” says Katja Karttunen, Product Manager at Iittala.

“Each bird showcases Oiva Toikka's creativity and the handicraft skills of Iittala's glass blowers.”

Iittala Birds by Toikka Aili
A drop of glass is added to create the head.
Iittala Birds by Toikka Aili
The blower uses an opening made in the body to enlarge the head.
Iittala Birds by Toikka Aili
At the end of the process, the beak is added. Quick movements and skill are needed to form the beak.
Iittala Birds by Toikka Aili
The beak's shape can still be changed slightly before the glass cools.
Iittala Birds by Toikka Aili
Aili birds awaiting the cutting of the base and the finishing touches. The shiny beak is a carefully planned touch which adds splendor to the minimalist design.

At the Iittala glass factory, Oiva Toikka is particularly remembered for his rich imagination. The colors and forms of the popular birds, annual cubes and other glass objects were developed in close cooperation with the glass blowers. Equipped with a vivid imagination and a good understanding of glass as a material, Toikka challenged the glass blowers to explore new techniques. His instructions were often verbal.

At the Iittala glass factory, Oiva Toikka is particularly remembered for his rich imagination.

In many cases, the colors that happened to be available in the furnaces that day were used for experiments, and some final shapes and colors came about by chance.

Like 'Anna' and 'Mari', the grey Aili is a natural member of Toikka's series of dome-shaped birds. Aili's timeless color will bring a sense of harmony to homes of Finnish design fans and is also a wonderful gift idea for all collectors of Iittala glass birds.

Oiva Toikka
Oiva Toikka (1931–2019) is one of Finland's most beloved designers.

Who: Oiva Toikka

• Born in the rural municipality of Vyborg in 1931, died in Helsinki in 2019
• Graduated in ceramics from the University of Art and Design Helsinki 1956 and worked as a designer at Arabia until 1959
• In-house designer at Nuutajärvi and Iittala from 1963
• Best-known works: Birds by Toikka (glass birds), the Kastehelmi collection, Flora tableware, and Krouvi beer mugs
• Awards: Lunning Prize 1970, Pro Finlandia Medal 1980, Kaj Franck Design Prize 1992, Finland Prize in 2000, and the Prince Eugen Medal 2001

See also:

Birds by Toikka Aili, FDS 15 Years >
Products designed by Oiva Toikka >
All products by Iittala >
Finnish Design Shop 15th anniversary collection >

The Birds by Toikka Aili is a numbered edition of 300 pieces and available only from Finnish Design Shop while stocks last.

Text: Mikko Vaija Images: Kaisu Jouppi, Otto Virtanen and Iittala Video: Otto Virtanen

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