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Timo Sarpaneva (1926-2006) won a prize at the Triennial of Milan in 1954 for his Orchid vase. It is not a functional vase, but rather a glass sculpture. Sarpaneva also produced designs for industrial consumer glass for the Iitala factory. For his ‘i service’, he designed the well-known logo for this glass factory, which is still in use today. Sarpaneva also designed ceramic consumer items.
Oiva Toikka (b.1931), a pupil of Kaj Franck and Tapio Wirkkala, is one of the most imaginative glass designers in Finland. In collaboration with the glass-blowers at the Nuutajärvi factory, he produces glass sculptures inspired by Pop Art, nature, Finnish fairytales and the French Revolution. Cor and Sjoukje de Wit met Oiva Toika on many occasions; various items in their collection were acquired directly from his studio.
Cor and Sjoukje de Wit collected around thirty objects by the multifaceted craftsman Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985). These include several examples of the famous Kantarelli vases, made at Iitala, with a shape and engraved decoration derived from the toadstool of the same name. Wikkala also regularly worked with the glass-blowers in Murano, near Venice. Their craftsmanship can be seen in the filigree vases in the presentation in the museum.
Architect Alvar Aalto (1894-1949) initiated the modernisation of Finnish design. Using wood and rounded shapes, he gave a new direction to international functionalism. His Savoy vases are still popular today. His design won him a competition held by the Karhula-Iitala glass factory in 1936. The organic shape could have been derived from the Finnish lakes, the contours of Finland or from the sculptures of Hans Arp and Henry Moore. The name Savoy refers to the Savoy Hotel in Helsinki, which was designed by Aalto. Cor and Sjoukje de Wit collected a dozen versions of this design over the years.
Cor de Wit
Cor de Wit was trained at the Technical High School in Delft as architect. In addition, he has always had considerable interest in the history of architecture and design. He acted as guide for architecture journeys and wrote studies about the architects Johan Niegeman and Chris Wegerif. He is now ninety years old, but is still active and gives lectures in his home. For example, he is currently working on a presentation for friends and acquaintances about the Scottish architect Charles Macintosh.
For the past forty years, during their trips to Finland, Cor de Wit and his wife Sjoukje collected several hundred pieces of exceptional glass by people such as Alvar and Aino Aalto, Kaj Franck, Tapio Wirkkala, Timo Sarpaneva, Oiva Toikka and Markku Salo. They purchased the items from the factories, in the designers’ studios and on local markets. They found several pieces in the Netherlands.
This video shows how Cor - his wife Sjoukje died three years ago - has surrounded himself at home with his beloved objects. The whole interior is Scandinavian, with lamps by Arne Jacobson, a tea table and stools by Alvar Aalto, Arabia china by Kay Franck and cutlery by Bertel Gardberg. For Cor de Wit, editor of the former magazine Goed Wonen [Good Living], a timeless, functional and organic style is still the ideal.
In the de Wit collection, the emphasis is on glass from the ‘fifties, the Golden Years of Finnish design. Mr and Mrs de Wit decided to bequeath this collection to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Cor de Wit himself has now put together a small presentation with a number of industrial products and several unique handmade items. This selection can be seen at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen from 10 March to 5 August 2012.
Camera and editing: Rose Klaver