Arabia – tablewares that have changed our world
Arabia was founded in 1873 in Helsinki in the district of Arabia by the Swedish tableware manufacturer Rörstrand. Initially, Rörstrand products were only made for the Russian market. For this, it is neccessary to know that Finland belonged until 1917 as an autonomous Grand Duchy to Russia. Crockery, sanitary ceramic and stove tiles were produced. In 1890, the then director Gustav Herlitz employed an artistic consultant for the first time. In 1896, the factory hired a designer for the first time. Thure Öberg also designed the first series, which received attention due to its shape beyond Finland.
In 1900, several of his own designs such as the series Capella received gold medals at the Paris World Exhibition. In spite of or perhaps because of the first great period of Russian oppression from 1899 to 1906, it was possible to promote arts and handcrafts and Finnish culture. Through this, a real creative wave in the country was triggered, in which occasionally the origin for today's worldwide importance of Scandinavian design may be searched.
Arabia and Finland become independent
Arabia also offered a true firework of noteworthy dishes and decoration series in the years of Russification periods from 1899 to 1917. In the aftermath, Finland became independent and adopted a republican constitution. Many companies engaged themselves after their state foundation to be able to offer products with excellent design. So new, great and independent things were created in Arabia too.
Already in 1916 Carl Gustav, son of Gustav Herlitz had taken over the management and Arabia separated from the corporate parent Rörstrand. From 1916 to 1929, the factory was bit by bit modernized. For example in 1929, the largest kiln in the world was installed in the factory near Helsinki. Among the highlights of the 1930s were the black pitcher and the Koti (home) tableware by Greta-Lisa Jäderholm-Snellmann. In addition, the artistic director Kurt Ekholm set up the world-renowned ceramic studio of the company, in which artists could let their creativity run free. Under the direction of Ekholm, the functionalism of design has become more and more important. Thereby, the series AH (1935) and Sinivalko (1936) were built under his influence. Under his direction, designs were also produced by Toini Muona, Aune Siimes, Michael Schilkin and Birger Kaipiainen. In 1937, the factory won prizes at the Paris exhibition "Exposition des Maitres de l'Art Indépendant" and received international attention. In the 1940s, Arabia became with more than 1000 employees the largest ceramics producer in Europe.
In 1947, the company was taken over by the Finnish Wärtsilä Group. In 1948, the factory museum opened and cooperation with the legendary Finnish designer Kaj Franck began. This took over the artistic direction of the company after a short time. Finland's oldest glassworks was also taken over in 1950 by the Wärtsilä Group, which pooled the two companies in the new Arabia-Nuutajärvi division. Kaj Franck took over the artistic direction for both brands. Product-specific, the group wanted to offer a folk tableware around 1950 and wrote this design task also for freelance designers in Finland. But the design of Kaj Franck won the bid and the dishes were offered from 1952 under the name Kilta. Franck used only the shapes of the circle, rectangle or square, cone and cylinder. The dishes are still impressing with the multifunctional usability of the parts. Furthermore, Arabia had adapted the recipe of the earthenware, so that the material was oven-proof and freeze-proof. The series significantly influenced and still influences the image of Scandinavian design. It unites the Scandinavian guidelines of functionalism and social compatibility unprecedented. Today, the dishes are offered by the sister brand Iittala under the name Teema in a revised version.
Ulla Procopé and succesfull tableware series
Another successful series was Ruska from 1960 by Ulla Procopé. The brown tableware was also produced with the oven-proof stoneware. Furthermore, the matte glaze was new. By applying the glaze, each piece became unique. This popular bestseller was produced until 1990 and then replaced by the series 24 h, which unfortunately could never reach the status of Ruska. Ulla Procopé also designed the handmade tableware Valencia. It was extensively decorated with cobalt blue and is characterized by the reference to Finnish folk art. Another known design is the Paratiisi series by the famous and important ceramic artist Birger Kaipiainen. The dishes are richly decorated with pansies, grapes and apples. The shape is similar to the line Kilta or rather Teema and is still produced today. Kaipiainen also designed various famous unique items in the established art ceramics workshop in Arabia and later became a professor at the College of Art and Design in Helsinki.
Arctica – A bestseller until today
1979 was followed by the next bestseller, the story of the Arctica by Inkeri Leivo. It is characterized by a soft and simple design and is offered only in white. Arctica is still very popular and currently the most popular series of the brand internationally.
In the 1980s, the production was switched to the first developed in the 1930s, vitreous china. Although vitreous china belongs to the group of stoneware, it is stronger than porcelain. The material moved back into the focus of tableware manufacturers by the strong automation wave in the 1980s. The material can be processed dry with the help of isostatic presses. Like this, plates and other flat parts can be produced without appreciable shrinkage by firing and fully automated. At first, only Villeroy & Boch switched to the material and thus received a gigantic burst of growth. Arabia soon followed and converted all the dishes except handmade Valencia to this kind of production. As a result, the dishes of the company were even more shock-resistant, also other features improved. The only considerable disadvantage was that the color range was slightly limited, since vitreous china had to be fired at higher temperatures than the previous stoneware mass.
In 1990, Arabia became licensee of the Moomin figures again (the label had the license once before in the 1950s). Since then, the mugs and bowls from the Teema series have been decorated with the hippo-like trolls Moomin and his companions. Moomin lives in the Moominvalley somewhere in Finland and experiences exciting adventures with the locals, his friends and parents. The series based on the model of the Finnish-Swedish writer Tove Jansson is now a bestseller worldwide and the tablewares are popular with all Moomin fans. In addition to the standard decors, the brand also offers limited decors of the Moomin Collection, especially at Christmas.
Now known as Hackman
In 1990, Arabia-Nuutajärvi was sold by the Wärtsilä Group to the Finnish Hackman Group. The group made cutlery and cookware, which were sold through brands such as Hackman, Raadvad and Høyang-Polaris mainly in Scandinavian markets. The group also included a commercial kitchen manufacturer. In 1990, Hackman also bought the Finnish glass brand and factory Iittala and the Swedish crockery factory Rörstrand. The Nuutajärvi glasswork was merged with the glasswork in Iittala, the brand name Nuutajärvi was completely extinguished in the process.
Initially, the world-famous brands were preserved and were only marketed internationally together after the takeover by Hackman. However, the majority of the Hackman Group's stock was gradually bought secretly by an Italian company for its commercial kitchens business, so the Hackman Group was unable to defend itself against a hostile takeover in 2005. The business area design was sold to the Dutch bank ABN Amro. There followed a massive restructuring. All products that have a "special" design have been combined in one brand. The Iittala glass brand has become known as the only international design brand and the parent corporation of the other brands in this segment. The cult line Teema was therefore integrated into the Iittala collection and massively edited by designer Heikki Orvola to adapt it to the fashion. Arabia remained the regional brand for Finland and Sweden.
The new millennium
In 2005, the Finnish designers Kristina Riska and Kati Tuominen-Niittylä designed the replacement to the popular folk dishes in the Arabia assortment. The KoKo (size) series became a big seller in Finland and Sweden. It impresses with its consistent lines, the variety of colors and its harmonious ability to combine with many other tablewares.
The Iittala Group was sold by the bank ABN Amro to the Finnish-American Fiskars Group in 2007. Since then, the design company has been operating as an independent business branch with the previous brands.
In 2014, the Ruska replacement was revised 24h. The simple form of Heikki Orvola is also offered in a dust blue and the pattern Iltalaulu (evening song) by Vincent Bakkum.
Arabia at scandinavian-lifestyle.com
In the online shop Scandinavian Lifestyle, fans order classics and moderns of the brand Arabia. Whether you are looking for a simple but noble tableware for everyday life or are interested in the treasured collector's editions of the Moomins – the competent team of scandinavian-lifestyle advises you and is happy to assist in the selection. We look forward to your order.