Gunnel Nyman mouthblown bubble glass model no. 9697, 1935–38

Based on the encyclopedic new title Iittala (Phaidon) — something between a coffee-table book and a design reference volume — Finnish glassmakers seem to have a particular way with the color green. The volume, edited by Florencia Colombo and Ville Kokkonen, chronicles the incredible history of Iittala, founded as a glassworks in 1881 and now morphed into a design brand that encompasses cookware, textiles and more.

This spread from the book features works by Alvar Aalto.

Throughout, gleaming emerald tones from different eras leap off the page, on objects as different as Arttu Brummer’s 1930s bubble glass vase and Oiva Toikka’s 2008 artwork Frog Pond, made using the technique employed to form paperweights. Because the history of the company is so long, the book is divided in 65 sections, organized not chronologically but thematically, to elucidate different aspects of the firm’s wide-ranging design achievements: “Social Individuals,” “Folk,” “Mechanisation” and the like.

In terms of name recognition, Finland’s most famous architect, Alvar Aalto, is well represented, but by some of his smallest works: 1939 drawings for glass serving dishes, for instance.

Sami Lahtinen Putkinotko prototype mouthblown glass, machine-formed, 1995-96
Sami Lahtinen Putkinotko prototype mouthblown glass, machine-formed, 1995-96

As design critic and author Deyan Sudjic says in his short introduction, Iittala’s longevity demonstrates the power of “transformation of the humble, the ordinary and the everyday.” Most of the works share a homey, domestic scale. Although surely some great artisan contributions didn’t make it into the episodic structure of the book, a surprising depth characterizes the texts, like a mini-history of wine glasses in the “Vitis Vinifera” section, paired with a picture of a 2004 decanter by Antonio Citterio and Toan Nguyen, captured as red wine splashes into it. Design fans, too, will drink in this book.

Iittala book cover

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