Iittala is a Finnish design company specialising in houseware objects made on the principle of "modern Scandinavian design". [N.B. The official logo of the Company is all in lower case - iittala.(See the link to the Company's webpage at the end of this article.) Using upper case for the initial i can cause some confusion as it may be mistaken for an L.] The Iittala Group consists of a number of businesses within its portfolio of operations: Arabia, Hackman, Iittala, BodaNova, Höganäs Keramik, Rörstrand and Hoyang-Polaris.
The most famous products to be fabricated by the Iittala company are the glassware designs of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, such as the so-called Aalto Vase (or Savoy vase) (picture, right) from 1936, and the glassware designs of Timo Sarpaneva, who started designing glassware for the company in 1950. In 1956 Sarpaneva designed the Iittala i-logo.
The founding of the Iittala company is said to date to 1881, when a glass factory was founded by Swede Petrus Magnus Abrahamsson. The first workforce had to be brought from Sweden due to the lack of skilled glassblowers in Finland.
In 1917, the company was bought up by timber refinery company A. Ahlström, who also owned the Karhula glass factory. These combined to become the Karhula-Iittala glass factory up until the 1950s. At first the factory specialised mostly in bottles for chemists and for holding lamp oil, though there was also some production of domestic items.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the company expanded into more experimental and artistic ventures, as well as producing more domestic products. One of the first major successes was the glassware designed by Aino Aalto, followed later by the glassware of Alvar Aalto.
During the Winter War and the Continuation War, part of the Second World War, production came to a halt due to shortages of materials and workforce. Production restarted in 1946. Iittala enjoyed continued success up until the oil crisis of the mid-1970s, when it had to cut back on its operations. Sales of their products in Finland were also continuosuly under competition from the ever growing import of foreign glassware.
In 1987, A. Ahlström sold Iittala to the Wärtsilä company, which owned the greater share of the Nuutajärvi glass factory in Urjala. Iittala was combined with the Nuutajärvi glass factory to become the Iittala-Nuutjärvi company. This company was bought by the Hackman company in 1990 - and at the same time they also bought other homeware manufacturers, Arabia and Rörstrand-Gustavsberg. In 2003 the company became known as Iittala, and in 2004 they came under the ownership of ABN AMRO Capital. Since 2007, Iittala is 97 percent owned by Fiskars, while its operative management holds 3 percent of the shares.
- Riitta Nikula (ed), Heroism and the Everyday. Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki, 1994.