I only discovered Oiva Toikka recently when visiting a glass gallery in Chester (Pyramid Glass) which had a display Birds by Toikka and was immediately struck with the design, colour, variety and ingenuity of the birds. This feature focuses on the Birds by Toikka but I hope to feature further articles on his other glass designs, other work and a Birds by Toikka price guide.
Oiva Toikka (1931-2019) was born in Viipurin maalaiskunta, the rural municipality surrounding then-Finnish Vyborg, now part of Russia. He became renowned for his designs for glassware, but he initially started in ceramics training at the University of Art and Design Helsinki and his career started at the art department at Arabia. Toikka was given the honorary title of Professor of the Arts by the state of Finland.
His imaginative, rich and bold glass art is a departure from mainstream Nordic design. Toikka’s individual style is also evident in the utility objects he creates as they often deviate from the traditional clean-lined puritanism of Finnish design aesthetics. In addition to glass, his artistic activities cover staging, fashion design and plastic interior design elements. (Source iittala.com)
Birds by Toikka
He started designing in glass in the 1960s and his designs include Kastehelmi (1964) and Flora from the 1960s and the Pioni and Krouvi collections from the 1970s. Although it is for his hand blown glass birds which first appeared in 1972 that he is most well known. He carried on designing until his death and his legacy is a portfolio of more than 500 birds.
The first birds were created by Oiva Toikka and the glassblowers of the Nuutajärvi Glass Factory in 1972. (Did you know? The Nuutajärvi Glass Factory is the oldest in Finland being established in 1793).
iittala Toikka Flycatcher
The first bird design was the Flycatcher, appearing in different colour variations. The most rare of the Flycatchers are those that have gradient coloring. Part of Nuutajärvi’s 1972 collection, two versions of the Flycatcher (Sieppo) were produced: one with a leg, and one without. The variation of vivid colors made these birds very appealing to collectors. The birds from the period bear the signature “Oiva.”
Over 300 species have been created, some of them more enduring in production than others.
Each bird is a unique individual, signed with the artist’s name – it is the tangible product of skilled artisanship. The passing of time enhances the value of these art objects. That is why Iittala Birds are cherished and valued gifts and irresistible to collectors around the world, from Finland to the United States and from Central Europe all the way to Japan.
Birds featured in the collection include: Purple Finch, Arctic Tern, barn owl, mandarin duck, Western Meadowlark, and many others. The collection included annual editions, limited editions, special editions and later included glass eggs.
Toikka Catcher 215 Anniversary Bird
Another example of his creativity is represented by the pieces designed for the Me Too collection by Magis – the same collection which also includes the sympathetic Puppy and the colourful Trioli children’s chair created by Eero Aarnio – as the rocking chair Dodo and the coat rack Paradise Tree.
Toikka enjoyed success, too, in other creative outlets. He worked as a stage and costume designer, generally with Finnish director Lisbeth Landefort [fi], whose autobiography he illustrated. In his later years, he was also associated with productions by the Finnish National Theatre and the Finnish National Opera. He has also occasionally contributed textile designs to the Marimekko collections.
Toikka’s awards include the Lunning Prize in 1970, Finnish State Award for Crafts and Design in 1975, Pro Finlandia Medal in 1980, Kaj Franck Design Prize in 1992, Finland Prize in 2000 and Prins Eugen Medal in 2001.
Oiva Toikka at Finnish Design Shop
Toikka Bird Guide at glassbirds.com
Oiva Toikka at Wikipedia
Toikka Special Archive Collection at Pyramid Glass Chester