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Birger Kaipiainen Finland’s Prince of Ceramics

August 15, 2022

Birger Kaipiainen (1915-1988) was one of Finland’s best-known ceramic artists.

After graduating from the Central School of Arts and Crafts he was offered a position at the art department of Arabia where he worked over fifty years, alongside Rut Bryk (more here).

The talented artist was referred to as the “king of decorators” and the “prince of ceramics”.

He received international fame at the Milano triennial in 1960 and Montreal Expo 67, where he won the Grand Prix.

For the triennial, he had designed a series of birds made of ceramic beads. Montreal’s massive relief Orvokkimeri (Sea of Violets) was nine meters wide and almost five meters high, and depicted swans on a sea of violets, (see below).

The artist also worked for Rörstrand in Sweden from 1954 to 1958.

In 1957 Birger Kaipiainen created the wallpapers Kiurujen yö and Ken Kiuruista Kaunein for Pihlgren & Ritola.

I see similarities here to some ceramic ideas by Tibor Reich.

Fishinkblog 9884 Tibor Reich 4

Perhaps one saw the others’ work and was subconsciously inspired ? Who knows.

Arabia’s tableware classic Paratiisi (paradise) was designed twelve years later. The series’ second quality ware was adorned by the verdant pattern Apila (cloverleaf) in the seventies.

Kaipiainen was granted the honorary title of Professor in 1977 and state pension four years later. Nevertheless, he continued working on new ideas at Arabia’s factory until passing away in 1988.

If you wish to purchase some beautiful products for your home created by Birger himself and redesigned by his family then please visit Kuovi.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Hiary permalink
    August 15, 2022 11:57 am

    Wow what beautiful work-thanks for that.

  2. October 9, 2022 7:24 pm

    I did not know very much about this designer/artist until I consigned a curlew for auction. We are selling it a Brunk Auctions October 13. I hope that whoever reads this blog also sees this rare bird. Thank yu for educating me further.

    kindest regards,

  3. susi johnston permalink
    February 11, 2023 12:25 am

    I am an art historian, working on a small piece about Birger Kaipiainen and I sense it may be time for recallibration of our perceptions of him and his work. To call it “whimsical” — a word foolishly overused in response to Scandinavian material culture — is a curt dismissal. Finns are often miscalculated, misunderstood. Kaipiainen’s work is far darker, more troubled, and even morbid than we recognize. It is heavy stuff. Weighty, with a prominent sense of existential dread and oppression. I am looking for biographical anecdotes and information about the man himself. As I hope I have made clear or at least intimated here, Finns must never be underestimated or taken lightly based on a superficial glance. Let’s look deeper.

    • February 13, 2023 8:22 am

      I agree Susi that there is a depth and darkness in Birger’s work to ever refer to it as ‘whimsical’. There is also a playfulness and a sense that he wants us to connect to it in our own way. It is complicated and complex, which is what also makes it fascinating!

  4. Pekka Kaipiainen permalink
    April 26, 2023 6:19 am

    Thank you for mentioning our family company Kuovi.

    However, I noticed three ceramics in your picture collection that are not designed by Birger Kaipiainen. Lintu and Perho milk jars and Ravenna cups are designed by Raija Uosikkinen. This was an intentional fraud by Arabia to get higher prices for these ceramics. There are other similar cases too. You can read about this from the book “Birger Kaipiainen” by Harri Kalha and here is a clip from it in Finnish:

    Pekka Kaipiainen

    • April 27, 2023 7:56 am

      Hi Pekka, thank you for your message and for spelling out the corrections. It is very difficult to identify pieces of ‘forged’ work from the real thing without your very specialised knowledge. Hopefully through your words and the book about Birger, people can start to do that for themselves. All the very best Craig

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