This exhibition celebrates the work of three women whose designs made significant contributions to the global success and enduring influence of postwar Scandinavian decorative glassware.
Nanny Still, Helena Tynell and Tamara Aladin were the star designers for Riihimäen Lasi Oy, Finland’s largest glassworks. They were not only committed and driven but were also fiercely competitive and commercially successful. Yet their names, work and accomplishments are scarcely mentioned in design histories which instead focus on the work of their male contemporaries.
Tynell and Still designed in numerous materials for manufacturers both in Finland and abroad. Aladin worked exclusively in glass and created more designs for Riihimäki than anyone else. Collectively, they produced some 1,000 designs for Riihimäki over a combined total of 74 years. All the glass in this exhibition was made at the works whose output formed a substantive part of the domestic aesthetic of postwar Finland.
By putting together the largest body of their work seen in the UK, the brilliance, variety and prolific nature of their design can be gauged - but it is also hoped the collection of work presented draws focus to womens’ place in design history.
The stance of the exhibition, and that of Sigmar, is that the design activities of women have always been underrepresented in literature, exhibitions and museum collections. This in turn, reproduces the falsehood that particular areas within the design profession are the reserve of men.
Sadly, rectifying the situation is not as simple as folding women into design histories. We must change the way design histories are written in order to have a chance at featuring those marginalised - past & present.
Only when misconceptions have been sufficiently challenged will the design profession and wider world become a more inclusive place. And when design histories are re-written, hopefully, they will correctly place Tynell, Aladin & Still at the summit of postwar glass design.
Sigmar salutes these successful female designers and recognises their place in the history of Scandinavian decorative arts.
With special thanks to Andy McConnell.