The Aalto Vase, also known as the Savoy vase, is a world famous piece of glassware and an iconic piece of Finnish design created by Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino Marsio. It became known as the Savoy vase because it was one of a range of custom furnishings and fixtures created by Alvar Aalto and Anio for the luxury Savoy restaurant in Helsinki that opened in 1937.The vase was also designed as an entry in a design competition for the Ahlström owned Karhula-Iittala glassworks factory in 1936.
The design was inspired by the dress of a Sami woman. Called Eskimåkvinnans skinnbyxa (the Eskimo woman's leather breech), the design consisted of a series of crayon drawings on cardboard and scratch paper. Aalto created initial prototypes by blowing glass in the middle of a composition of wooden sticks stuck into the ground, letting the molten glass swell on only some sides and creating a wavy outline.
The initial manufacture of the vase was not without problems and the original idea of using molds made of thin steel sheets forced together to form closed sinuous shapes had to be abandoned. The vase was originally manufactured by the glassworks factory using a wood mold which was slowly burned away. This vase was later displayed for the 1937 World's Fair in Paris and the original height of the Savoy vase was 140 mm. Aalto never made money with the vase, because the design belonged to the factory for which the design competition entry was produced.
The vase has been manufactured in nearly a full spectrum of colours. The simplicity of the vase continues to be popular in the 21st century. Smaller versions of the vase, just as Aalto designed them with the seams visible and a slight curve at the base, are still produced by glasspressing at the Iittala glass factory in Iittala, Finland. Larger versions are made using Aalto's design, but without seams.
Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) is a recognized master of modern architecture and design. Born in Kuortane, Finland, Alvar Aalto began to make his distinct mark in design shortly after receiving his architectural degree from Helsinki Polytechnic in 1921.
In 1924, Alvar Aalto married fellow architect Aino Marsio, creating a lifelong partnership that built an international design legacy. During his remarkable career, Alvar Aalto designed major public institutions including concert halls, museums, universities, libraries as well as private homes throughout the world. Aalto’s furniture and houseware designs derived organically from his architectural work.
Alvar Aalto’s unique aesthetic helped to define Finnish design as well as introduce it to a global audience. Alvar Aalto hallmarks include a harmonious relationship with nature, functionalism combined with beauty, excellent attention to details and an ingenious use of materials.
Aalto’s designs were already being exhibited internationally as early as the 1930s, including at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. When Alvar Aalto premiered his “Savoy Vase” at the 1930 New York World’s Fair, it instantly caused a sensation with its dynamic wavy design that was as alive and fluid as the Finnish lakes that inspired it. The legendary vase is one of the world’s most famous glass objects and remains a timeless staple for Iittala.