The roots of Iittala date back to 1881 when a glass factory was established in a village of the same name in southern Finland. In the early years, Iittala produced glassware by blowing and pressing, according to continental models brought to the factory by glassblowers. The breakthrough for Iittala came in the early years of modernism and functionalism during the 1930s and 1940s. During this time, design pioneers like Alvar and Aino Aalto and Kaj Franck set the foundation to Iittala’s design philosophy: to push boundaries and give people beauty and function. This thinking is at the base of what keeps Iittala forever relevant. Iittala doesn’t just create beautiful objects, it believes in timeless design that will never be thrown away. What started as a glass factory in 1881, now celebrates generations of essential objects that are made to enrich people’s everyday lives.
How is iittala dedicated to the pursuit of sustainable choices and a better living?
Iittala is committed to creating a sustainable future. Iittala promotes change with three long term sustainability commitments: a carbon-neutral business, circular products and services, and a positive impact.
Recyclability and circular economy are considered from the start of the design process. Iittala wants to reduce waste in all of its operations and help its partners do the same. Iittala’s target is that by 2030, all waste from Iittala’s own operations is recycled or reused with no waste sent to landfills. This target has already been reached at the Iittala Glass Factory in Finland. All clear waste glass and reusable coloured waste glass is melted again as raw material for new 100 % recycled glass products. Waste glass that cannot be used in new items is used as insulation material by the construction industry.
Iittala also invests in circularity. Since 2019, the award-winning Iittala Vintage service buys and re-sells used Iittala items as well as enables people to recycle broken or worn-out glassware and ceramic tableware. At the moment, the service is active in Finland and Sweden with plans to expand to several other countries.
As Colour separation is a necessity, how does the glass recycling process work?
Glass blowing is a long-established process where air is blown into a glass mass through a long metal pipe. Glass can be mould-blown (e.g. Aalto vases) or free-blown (e.g. Birds). Blowing is done in hot shops as teamwork. A team consists of master blowers and parison blowers. The number of glassblowers needed in a team depends on the size and quality of the product. The glassblowing starts by a parison-blower taking a small piece of glass (parison) onto the glassblowing pipe. The team then works on the glass to be fault-free, the right size and shape for the end product. Master glassblowers make the most demanding part of the blowing process and finish the product.
Let’s use our famous Aalto vase, designed by Alvar Aalto in 1936, as an example. Iittala still produces all of the Aalto vases in the very same factory in Iittala, Finland where the Iittala story began in 1881. Every Aalto vase is mouthblown.
Although an Aalto vase looks pure and simple in form, making them is far from easy. A vast amount of human skills, knowledge of materials, colours and production methods is required to create an object of ideal quality. Craftsmanship forms the basis: it takes 7 craftspeople, 12 work stages and 1100 °C of heat to make an Aalto vase. To be able to blow Aalto vases, a glassblower usually needs about five years of experience as a professional industrial glassblower.
First, molten glass material is gathered from the furnace onto the blowing pipe it is shaped manually using e.g. wet wooden tools and wet paper. Then more glass gathers are taken according to the size of product and air is blown into gathered glass making the glass bubble larger. When the bubble and mass are the right sizes, glass is pre-formed. Pre-formed glass is put into a pre-heated mould by the master glassblower and is blown inside the mould filling it; walls of the mould give the shape of the vase. After that the vase is taken out of the mould, the glassblower checks the piece and loosens it from the blowing pipe. The object cools down (to around 500-600 °C), a carrier brings it to the annealing kiln, in which the glass products are cooled down slowly to room temperature. After annealing, the object is finalized: extra glass is cut away and the edge of the vase is polished by hand. Then the vase is washed and again quality inspected before packing and shipping.
The skilled artisans of the Iittala Glass Factory have dedicated themselves to keeping tradition alive; every single Aalto vase is individually made. Iittala is proud of the craftsmanship, expertise and knowledge that is used every day to build Iittala and uphold its high quality. The icon of Finnish design is reborn every day, and its unique shape is showcased in homes and public spaces, museums and galleries around the world.
What positive impact do you hope this 100% recycled collection can bring to one’s life and community?
As a pioneer of Nordic design, Iittala is dedicated to the pursuit of better living. We believe in striving for balance by focusing on the essential things in life. More than just a collection of beautiful objects, our design exists to increase your sense of wellbeing. By choosing Iittala, you choose a thoughtful design that is in tune with you and the ever-changing nature of your life. Design made to be loved and used, day in and day out, for decades and generations to come.
Do you have a takeaway for our audience?
As a pioneer of Nordic design, Iittala embraces the essence of Nordic living: It is about functional and refined aesthetics, but it’s also about a deep respect for the progressive ideas that shape our way of life. Iittala believes in design that lasts from generation to generation.
Enter to win
Score yourself the essentials for your every day, the special edition Raami recycled tumblers. We’re giving away a lovely set of Raami recycled tumblers (4) from Iittala that anyone would appreciate. Enter here.