A fiery, glowing ball of glass at the end of a blowpipe

The Finnish designer Timo Sarpaneva (1926 – 2006) belongs to the pioneers of 20th century glass art. His work is characterized by bold and unconventional attitudes; a refined abstract idiom that reflects the fluxes of contemporary modernist art as well as the natural world and the Finnish countryside from where he drew inspiration. Sarpaneva graduated from the Helsinki School of Arts and Design in 1948. The following year he was awarded the silver prize in a design competition held by the Finnish glassworks Riihimäki and in 1950 he started working for the renowned Iittala.

Sapaneva’s pieces are characterized by organic forms and a cool sculptural elegance that evokes the purity and natural beauty of the material. In connection with an exhibition of his work at the Design Museum in Helsinki he described his fascination of glass like this:

“A fiery, glowing ball of glass at the end of a blowpipe. I’ve seen it thousands of times, yet time and again it opens a new world for me. Glass released me from the conventional and the three-dimensional. It opened its deepest reaches to me and took me on a journey to a fourth dimension. I understood the opportunities that clear transparent glass gives to an artist and designer. Its external contours are only a small part of the whole. Inside it one can hide a whole landscape of the mind.”

The making of Sarpaneva’s pieces required great technical skills. He was constantly inspired by new dimensions of the glassblowing technology and devotedly took part in developing the craft himself. Sarpaneva also designed glass objects for industrial production, but it is his art glass including the Lancet, Orchid and Teardrop, that reveals his aesthetic sensibility and virtuosity. In 1954 the American magazine House Beautiful chose the Orchid as the most beautiful object of the year, and just as his colleague and countryman, Tapio Wirkkala, Sarpaneva received great attention and recognition at the Milan Triennials throughout the 1950’s.