In classic literature and medieval time periods, “Ultima Thule” is commonly used to describe the furthest possible place in the world, a distant region with no known discovery. Similarly, iittala’s Ultima Thule glassware collection references the icy cold reaches of Scandinavia through the distinct and expressive power of Finnish glass. Created in 1968 by Finnish designer and sculptor Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985), this revolutionary glassware line truly represents timeless craftsmanship and authentic Finnish design. Wirkkala’s creation of Ultima Thule heavily contributed to iittala’s national breakthrough and remains a distinctive iittala design to this day, celebrating 55 years of continuous production in the year of 2023.
Origins of Ultima Thule's Design
When creating Ultima Thule, Wirkkala was inspired by the melting ice in the far north of Lapland, Finland. The textured surface of the glass reflects the undulations in the water that ebb and flow across the snow-covered Scandinavian land. The unique glasswork of these pieces is achieved through specialized molds, the first of which were made by Wirkkala himself. Hours upon hours were spent to recreate this ice melting phenomenon through glass-blowing techniques, showcasing Wirkkala’s true expertise and commitment as a glass artist. Captured in this handheld form, the presence of Nordic wilderness and Finnish scenery truly shine through Ultima Thule, a constant source of inspiration for the designer’s creations. The glassware collection includes a variety of pieces from tumblers, goblets, and carafes to bowls, pitchers and serving dishes, creating a true elegance at the table when paired together. Ultima Thule has also found its way outside the home, first used on a Finnair flight in 1969, and still remaining in use by the flight service today.
Stunning Textured Glass
Another integral part of Ultima Thule’s design is the ease at which it catches light through its clear, textured glass. Between the changing seasons in Finland, the amount of light shifts from dark winters to bright summers. Ultima Thule effortlessly captures this limited light and creates a beautiful sparkle, further resembling the glistening water in the Finnish sun. Ultima Thule’s structure is also applauded because of its durable three-footed base, which creates a strong, stable and reliable piece of tableware to be used for decades. The inspiration behind Ultima Thule coupled with its perfected structure has scored this glassware line its title as one of the bests. 55 years later, this glassware is still being crafted at iittala’s factory by talented artisans, who pull the molten glass from the furnace, blow it into the molds, hot-cut and polish it to perfection.
iittala Ultima Thule Today
Ultima Thule takes us to the mysterious and unknown far north, where the melting ice finds itself in a new medium, Finnish glass. Wirkkala’s artistic vision and talented craftsmanship has resulted in this glassware earning its status as an international design classic, and remains the most popular line of glassware ever produced by iittala. Iittala Ultima Thule is still loved today by modern and traditional enthusiasts for its timeless quality and charm. Wherever you reside, you can find the icy terrains of Scandinavia in your own home with iittala’s Ultima Thule glassware collection.