Design master class
Setting new standards
Kaj Franck was born in Vyborg, Finland to a to middle-class German-Finnish-Swedish family. He graduated from the Furniture Design Department of the Central School of Industrial Arts, in 1932. Franck developed together with skilled craftsmen a variety of ceramic and glass moulding techniques to create his functional tableware as well as unique one-off art pieces. Franck has been awarded a large number of Finnish and international awards and prizes and his work has been displayed at a range of design museums around the world.
Kaj Franck is often described as the conscience of Finnish design. The attraction we feel for his designs goes beyond the mere aesthetics. His pursuit of creating universal, functional, combinable tableware stripped down from unnecessary illustration has been an inspiration for decades. Moderation, ecology and equality were Franck’s principles. He strove to minimise the number of everyday objects we need in our lives, drawing attention to the sustainability and life cycle of products. Today his legacy lives on not only in his designs but also in the designs of younger designers he influenced.
'Authenticity and appropriate material are inviolable concepts that cannot be questioned.'
Iittala glassworks’ competition for new decorative glass designs held in 1946 was to have a major impact on modern glass in Finland. It was won by Tapio Wirkkala and Kaj Franck, two designers who were to become very well known for their works at home and abroad. After the competition both men were appointed as designers at Iittala glassworks.
Soon after joining Iittala, Kaj Franck designed a range of everyday glassware known as Tupa. The mouth-blown green tumblers were the earliest versions of a design that would become a central feature of Franck’s output. As Iittala and Nuutajärvi at the time were competitors belonging to different parent companies, Kaj Franck left Iittala for Nuutajärvi glassworks, which was Finland’s oldest glasswork plant with a long tradition of craftsmanship, to continue to develop his increasingly functional design aesthetics.
Kaj Franck came to Nuutajärvi glassworks in 1951. Developing the village as a whole beyond the glassworks was an important attitude shared by both the Nuutajärvi management and staff. There was a strong sense of working together for what was seen as the common good.
Franck fitted well to this socially progressive community spirit and felt himself very much part of the village, despite never living there permanently. He brought a breath of fresh air from the wider world to Nuutajärvi and made Nuutajärvi name known around the world.