Design trolley dash

Arabia ceramic factory in Helsinki

A lot of the things on these shelves are of Finnish origin. So a long weekend in Helsinki was always a pleasing idea. Rolling around in their design heritage was the plan.

Iittala, Arabia, Fiskars, Marimekko and the rest. I live with bits and pieces of this Finnish stuff every day. And me, I always want to see where they made it. After that I want to see where they sell it. And if there is a museum where they exhibit it, even better. London has several Finnish design shops so I’m quite spoilt. But nothing on the scale of Helsinki. The iittala covered whole walls there. There was a Marimekko department store (or what felt like one) and even the hotel had stacks of Kaj Franck pottery in the breakfast room and iittala glasses in the bathrooms. Almost design obscene it was.

And whilst Helsinki effortlessly embraces their lovely design heritage, the seeing of it was something we should have made more of an effort to plan. Pre-booking of factory tours was compulsory and odd opening times were ubiquitous. We missed the summer opening times bonanza and became the tourists that just missed it.

The city itself was hard to love in some ways – not my taste in architecture, all that grand stuff. Not built on a pedestrian scale. And built a little bit, it seemed to me, with it’s back to the lovely surrounding waters.

But it was no hardship at all to tram it to, and worship at the gates of, the Arabia factory. All my Franck pottery came from there. And to squeak in delight at the pots on show in the delightfully dusty Arabia Museum that we had to ourselves. Is there anything more lovely than a factory building? One that is still in use?

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