From past to present


Design Museum / Iittala Archives

A factory in Iittala

In 1881, a glass factory was founded in the small village of Iittala in the municipality of Kalvola. A newly-founded railway station, the closeness of a sawmill and of the lake Äimäjärvi affected the choice of situating this new factory in Iittala. The first glasses were blown on the 24th of November 1881. To the locals, the factory was a real sight, and many came from further away to see it. From early on the factory was known for its quality, based on the well-protected trade of glassblowing that passed from father to son.


Abrahamsson ja Norstedt

The factory-founder and glassblower P. M. Abrahamsson left the factory in 1888, but the working never seized. In the next decade the factory was led to success by the engineer Claës Norstedt, first a deputy director and later the leader of the whole factory. He was much liked by the workers who were increasingly Finnish, compared with an initial Finnish-Swedish worker majority.


From Tasala (2001)


Design Museum / Iittala Glass Museum

60 Light bulbs

At the end of 1895, the factory received its first electric light. The grindery and office had 60 light bulbs while the factory workshop was still lit only by the glow of hot glass.


The factory manager's house

Lars Sonck, a renowned Finnish architect of the turn of the 20th century, designed a house for Norstedt to be built in the village of Kalvola. The national romantic two-storey Jugend house, built using materials such as local granite, was finished in 1910. Sonck designed the basement floor of the house to contain a baking room, a laundry room, and a photography laboratory and darkroom. Norstedt worked as the factory manager from 1896 to 1917.


In 1922 the house was bought by the municipality of Kalvola, and since then it functioned as the city hall of Kalvola. Apparently the municipality was expected to grow fast as the only permanent workroom in the big new city hall was reserved for the municipal bookkeeper. There was, additionally, a bank in the house until the 1950s. Most of the building was still governed by the municipality until 2009 when Kalvola became part of Hämeenlinna. After this the house was left empty, and it has since been used for example as an Iittala Art House. The building is nationally valuable and still used. It can be found in the address Iittalantie 130.

Hämeenlinna Library Digital Archives 



Design Museum / Timo Sarpaneva collection

The factory is sold

Because of the First World War, the factory was in trouble, and in 1917 Norstedt sold his portion to the Karhula limited company, part of the Ahlström group. Since then the ownership has changed numerous times, and from 2007 Iittala has belonged to the Fiskars Corporation.


The Green House

The green log house in the Glass Capital, nowadays a retail space, was originally the main building of the Orvo Estate in the 1800s. When Aug. L. Johansson from the Karhula limited company became manager of Iittala, he bought the Orvo estate straight away. The Orvo estate was within the limits of land earlier reclaimed for the factory. During the Finnish civil war, the non-socialist White Civil Guard, founded in 1918, took the old Orvo main building as their headquarters.


The Red House "Puntteli"

The red building in the Glass Capital first functioned as a hay-drying barn of the Kyhkynen estate, transferred to Iittala in the early 1980s. That is when it was renovated to fit a smaller glassblowing facility for training and visitor purposes, and a restaurant. Since then, “Puntteli” has been used as an art gallery and atelier, and an interior design shop.


The Shop of the Glass Factory

The building of the current bookshop was built in 1899 to be a branch store of A. Gust. Skogster. The apartment in the building was built in 1910. Skogster’s shop sold for example hardware, exotic products, and fabric.

K.J. Suominen became the shop manager in 1926. He bought the store for himself in 1928. His son-in-law Jaakko Hakala was a regular helper in the store and bought it in 1960, selling products quite similar to his father: “chow, casted iron, and charges”. Food retail was later concentrated in the Hämeenlinna city center, and Pekka Sirma from the family bought the company in 1997 though the building was left in possession of Jaakko Hakala. Raija and Hannu Örni acquired the building in 2006, and that is when the bookshop “IIttalan Kirja ja Paperi” started in that house. There still is, however, a nostalgic museum shop in the building.

From Tasala (2001)

The old wooden school

The construction of the school building that is nowadays stage to Finland’s biggest summer naïve art gallery, was started in 1870. The materials used were gathered locally, and also the builders were from Iittala. However, it turned out that the house was not strong enough and had to be thoroughly renovated. The Sauvala School began its operation in the building in 1872.


Design Museum / Rauno Träskelin

The Iittala logo

During the 1956 general strike, working in the factory seized though ovens were allowed to be kept heated. Timo Sarpaneva decided to use the spare time to his advantage, and started developing the color shades to be used in his new everyday glassware range. Later in the same year this range called “i-linja” (“i-line”) came out, along with a red i-logo to represent the name of the product. This logo became the logo of Iittala already in the 1960s.

The Museum is opened

In 1971, on the glass factory’s 90th birthday, the Iittala Glass Museum was opened into the barn (built 1909) of the old Orvo Estate. The renovation of the old barn was designed by the architect Juhani Kivikoski. When in 2004 the Hackman Pro Design foundation was merged with the Design Museum foundation, also the Iittala Glass Museum artefacts became a part of the national Design Museum collections.

An "explosion of creativity"

Iittala’s history is oftentimes described as a surprising success story, for example in the publications of the London-based interior design business Skandium like Englund & Schmidt (2003), in that a remote village in Finland became the origin of the Savoy or Aalto vase by Alvar Aalto, a world-renowned glass artefact, and the art and glassware of many more famous designers alike. These include Hans Göran Hongell, Tapio Wirkkala, Kaj Franck, and Timo Sarpaneva. Sarpaneva’s grandfather was also a handicraftsman, a smith, and Sarpaneva had fond memories of accompanying him at his work (Tasala 2001: 24). Sarpaneva loved the smell of smoke from the forge, and told he was always inspired by smoke and fire, as reported by Tasala (2001: 24).


Alvar Aalto

The vase collection that Alvar Aalto designed in 1936 laid a foundation for timeless Iittala design. In 1937 it was presented at the “Paris International Exhibition dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life”. Its simple and organic shape was not in line with contemporary design ideals of decorativeness and symmetry, and yet it produced a classic.

The Aalto vase was part of this collection called Eskimoerindens skinnbuxa that won the first prize in a Karhula-Iittala competition. There are twelve different phases in the production of the hand-blown vase, and seven professional glassblowers and a temperature of +1100 C or 2012 F are needed for a vase to take shape.


Iittala Outlet

The first Iittala Outlet was open only to the glass factory workers, and it was opened at the end of the Hakala hardware store in the 1950s. In the 1960-70s the factory bought the Värtelä grocery store in the village of Iittala, and the outlet moved into its ground floor. That is when it opened to customers from outside the factory as well. In May 1978, a store opened in the space of an old homestore in the Glass Capital, this time with a café.

In a few years the whole building was taken over by the outlet, and the Café-Restaurant Puntteli moved into another space just opposite. Later an even bigger outlet was built next to the old outlet. This new building was opened in the spring of 2006, and the old outlet became a restaurant. 



Fiskars Oyj Abp

Extending and renewing the factory

The valued glass production of Nuutajärvi was moved into Iittala in 2014, and the factory was extended. In conjunction with these renovations, a new entrance and viewing balcony for visitors were built. The nation’s first lady Jenni Haukio opened the renewed factory in May 2014 and spoke in reverence of the heritage of Iittala. She saw it as a component of our national heritage, creating faith in Finnish design and the possibilities of its success on Finnish markets.

Key references:

  • Aav, Marianne & Viljanen Eeva. 2006. Celebrating Finnish Glass Art: Iittala 125. Designmuseo.
  • Annala, Vilho. 1948. The Finnish Glass Industry: Part II. Helsinki: Suomen lasiteollisuusliitto.
  • Arkkitehtitoimisto Hanna Lyytinen Ky. 2001. A report of the building culture of Lasimäki-Oikola.
  • Fiskars Oyj:n tiedotteet.
  • Englund, Magnus & Schmidt, Chrystina. 2003. Scandinavian Modern. London, UK: Ryland Peters and Small.
  • Häme-Wiki: Iittala, Iittala Glass Factory.
  • kalvolansosialidemokraatit.net [Kalvola Social Democrats]
  • Klemola, Marketta. 1981. Let's drink until Iittala is seen: Iittala glass 1881-1981. Karisto.
  • store.iittala.fi


  • * Hämeenlinna city library digital media archive Lydia - Kalvola City Hall.
  • ** Tasala, Markku. 2001. Stories of Iittala Glassblowers. Designor Oy Ab

Iittala Glass Capital

Könnölänmäentie 2
14500 Iittala, Finland
Info and guided tour booking: p. 020 439 6230

Lasimäen Kauppiasyhdistys © 2016
English translation by Aino Haataja, 2016