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Birds By Klenell, Iittala, 2010

A collection of glass birds inspired by the iconic Oiva Toikka birds that the Nuutajärvi workshop and Iittala has produced since 1972. The collection consists of totally ten different individuals divided in two families. There are also a number of unique birds in various colors and techniques. Each bird is designed as an urn for hiding your most precious things.

”The thieving birds”

The starting point for this project was the beautiful magpie. A bird with a very elegant appearance but also a quite sinister character. It is said to be the only bird that can recognize itself in a mirror. It also has a quite cruel and unreliable personality and it is famous for being a thief. The habit of collecting what it find glimmering is something it shares with many of its bird relatives. In their bellies and nests they store things they find valuable.

In my previous work with glass I have mainly worked with unique objects. Already then the hiding function in the objects were central. Even though a lot of my focus has been on exploring the aesthetic qualities of the glass material, I wanted to give my work a function.
You rarely put flowers in a exclusive glass vase since it moves focus from the object itself. To use it as a hiding place is however perfectly fine. Historically and mythologically the urn or the vase has often served that purpose. In crime novels the stolen diamonds are hidden in the Ming vase and in computer games you know by experience that the extra life is often to be found if you break the urns or look inside the barrels you pass by on your way towards the goal.

The thieving birds are two families of glass birds inspired by this. A sophisticated black and white family of magpies and a colourful family sprung from the deep forests. Apart from being a decorative glass object they serve as containers intended for hiding your most precious things, secrets or surprises. The heads and the bodies are possible to shift or replace to create your own unique set of birds.

When I was commissioned to work with Iittala on this project I felt truly excited. Partly because of the company’s tradition, the honour to interpret the iconic birds of Oiva Toikka and the chance to work in the famous Nuutajärvi workshops with their skillful staff. It might sound a bit weird but to be able to do work in the factory where the Prisma drinking glasses designed by Kaj Franck was made a long time ago is kind of special to me since it is the glass I use on my dinner table at home every day.

The project gave me an opportunity to use my experience with unique glass production with my knowledge as an industrial designer and for the first time fully combine two of the main tracks in my practice. To make a collection of thieving birds by adding a hiding function to the expressive beauty of the various glass techniques and the special Iittala colours made sense.

I have learned that every glass work shop is unique and possess skills and traditions of their own. You make glass differently in Czech Republic, Sweden or United States and that affects the end result. So also in Nuutajärvi.
Unsurprisingly I found the workshop highly influenced by the works of Toikka and instead of radically break with that tradition I tried to use it in my own project. Some might call it inspiration, some see it as succession and others may say it’s thieving….