Is it possible to trademark a shape? If it is, then put the Aalto Vase by the Finnish glass factory Iittala at the front of the line. To have conceived a form so distinctive that it needs no description but its creator’s name is an enviable accomplishment by any designer. And to have it remain an icon of Finnish creativity a lifetime after its conception—in 1937—only underscores an obvious truth: Alvar Aalto was not your average designer.
Custom made for the Savoy restaurant in Helsinki (and sometimes referred to as the Savoy vase), the Aalto Vase was said to have been inspired by the native dress worn by the women of the indigenous Scandinavian people, the Sami. And yet another womanly presence was provided by Aalto’s wife, Aino, with whom he collaborated on the design. So, maybe we shouldn’t be all that surprised by the undeniably feminine undertones present in the gently undulating shape that defines the vase.
And maybe it’s no wonder that the Aalto Vase remains more than one of the great modern home accessories of any age. It also remains a potent Valentine’s Day statement; giving timeless shape, you might say, to an expression of love.