History of Plastics in Finnish Design

In 1921 the first Finnish plastics manufacturer Sarvis was founded. They made mainly buttons, combs, belt buckles and other small items out of casein. With the technical innovations of the late 1920's, several Bakelite manufacturers were founded in Finland and after the Second World War a real plastics boom started with the emergence of new materials, such as nylon, acrylics, Teflon and silicone, to name a few.

Timo Sarpaneva/El Rod Opa, More, 1987-1988. Photo: Jean Barbier

The 1950's and 60's were real "design plastics" decades and produced some of the most well- known design classics of our time. Eero Saarinen's Tulip chair of 1956 is as celebrated icon as is the Karuselli chair of 1964 by Yrjö Kukkapuro or the Bubble chair of 1968 by Eero Aarnio.

After the oil crisis and environmental concerns of the 1970's, plastics have come a long way and are an inseparable part of our everyday life. Plastic hearts, joints, implants and other medical devices live inside our bodies, while most of the clothes we wear have at least parts of them made of plastic, and almost all of the everyday objects we use have plastics in them. Now innovative technologies offer new directions for design with plastics and the ever-improving recycling methods allow us to find more sustainable ways to use it.  

Antti Nurmesniemi/Fujitsu, telephone Antti, 1984. Photo: Rauno Träskelin

Made of Plastic - History of Plastics in Finnish Design
-exhibition highlights the key developments in the use of plastics in Finnish design and also showcases a continuum of history of a material that has changed our daily lives more dramatically than we even realise. The main emphasis of the exhibition is on design and the plastic design classics will benchmark periods and trends that are relevant in the history of Finnish plastics.

Eero Aarnio/Asko, Kupla (Bubble)
Photo: Pietinen