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Design Icon: Alvar Aalto Vase

by Maxwell Tielman


Design: Aalto Vase (also known as The Savoy Vase)

Designer: Alvar Aalto

Date: 1936

Country of Origin: Finland

Manufacturer: Iittala

Materials: Mouth-blown glass

Background: One of Finnish designer Alvar Aalto’s most iconic works, the vase was originally designed as an entry to a design competition by hosted by the Karhula-Iittala glassworks factory. Aalto originally crafted the vase by placing a number wooden sticks into the ground and blowing molten glass between them, something that gave the vase its organic, wavy quality. Due to this original production method, early Aalto vases are notable for their slight surface imperfections. The vase came to be known as the Savoy Vase, because it was one of the original furnishings in the Savoy Restaurant, an luxury establishment that opened in Helsinki in 1937.

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.

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  • while I think that this vase is beautiful, in fact I own one, I rarely use it as I don’t like the way flowers look in it. instead I force bulbs in it as I like the structured bulbs with the organic shape of the vase.

  • I had one of these from when I lived in Finland, and my boyfriend recently broke it. I’ll have to tell him it took 30 hours and numerous craftsmen to make it!

  • I’ve had a white one for many years which is also rarely used. I always “imagine” that I’m going to fill it with tulips in spring but usually it never happens. It doesn’t bother me that much since I find it beautiful even without flowers. Last year we were given a lilac coloured in a smaller size. So far I haven’t had any flowers in it but perhaps it will happen for Christmas.

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