Iittala was founded in 1881 by the Swedish Petrus Magnus Abrahamsson, one of the master glass-makers of Nuutajärvi (which at the time was the largest glass producer in Finland). Abrahamsson recruited most of the staff from his countrymen and concentrated production in particular on glass objects for domestic use, with forms of Central European inspiration. In 1917 the company became part of the Ahlström group, which would have given a decisive development to its history.
Ahlström had already purchased the great Karhula glassworks some years before and merged the two companies in Karhula-Iittala, later calling the pioneer of Finnish design Göran Hongell as artistic director. The Karhula-Iittala promoted several competitions for artistic glass projects in the 1930s: it was on one of these occasions that Alvar Aalto’s Savoy series of vases came to light, one of the greatest successes in the whole history of Finnish design.
After the war, Karhula and Iittala were split off, leaving the production of the largest glass bottle and packaging market to the former and allowing the latter to venture definitively into the world of design, with the engagement of Tapio Wirkkala, Kaj Franck and Timo Sarpaneva. Their products were presented at the Milan Trienniale, always achieving great success and thus opening the doors to international markets.
It was Timo Sarpaneva who designed the brand’s famous logo in 1956, which is still a guarantee of quality, while Tapio Wirkkala was appointed artistic director. Starting in the 1970s, however, the glass industry entered a period of deep crisis, which led to numerous upheavals: the Ahlström group first took over the Riihimäki glassworks, then merged with the Wärtsilä group which brought the Nuutajärvi glassworks into dowry. However, all this was not enough to revive the fortunes and Iittala was first sold to the Hackman group in 1990 and then in 2007 to the Fiskars group, where it finally found the definitive relaunch.