Paratiisi 40 Years
Arabia’s ninth floor
Heaven of ceramics – Birger Kaipiainen’s Paratiisi
Professor and ceramics artist Birger Kaipiainen (1915–1988) designed Arabia’s beloved Paratiisi (Paradise) series in 1969. The Paratiisi 40 Years jubilee exhibition will be opened in the Arabia Museum’s Gallery on 12 June 2009. The exhibition tells the colourful story of a bold decorative motif, tracing it from its inspiration in Kaipiainen’s unique works to mass production by Arabia. A mug and pair of espresso cups will be introduced into the Paratiisi series in honour of its jubilee year. Designed by Professor Heikki Orvola, these new items respect Kaipiainen’s design heritage.
The young and promising ceramics artist Birger Kaipiainen graduated from the Central School of Arts and Crafts in 1937. He joined Arabia’s Art Department in the same year. Kaipiainen started out by decorating pitchers, platters and vases. As Arabia’s own design evolved, Kaipiainen introduced his colourful vision to new wall plates, decorations and plaques. The creative fire that burned inside him and his longing for beauty soon grew so strong that in the 1940s he focused on creating unique works.
From the beauties of the Renaissance to the secrets of gardens
Kaipiainen’s early works express his reverence for the Renaissance. They are alive with vivid colours and full of wistful looks. In 1941, as World War II raged, he paid homage to a 15th century colleague by creating a wall relief entitled Luca della Robbia. This piece is now located in the lobby of the Arabia Museum.
His love of Italian art inspired him to visit the country in 1949. When he returned to Finland, he brought new, deep colours, shapely forms and beads back with him. He went to work in Sweden from 1954 to 58. His stay in Sweden brought out his playful side.
Kaipiainen loved opera, ballet and music. A dream of his came true in 1951, when the Opera asked him to design the stage sets for The Sleeping Beauty. Professor and artist Oiva Toikka worked at Arabia’s Art Department at the same time as him. Both men not only worked in stage and costume design, but also favoured a brilliant palette.
Toikka remembers Birger as an intellectual who was an expert in everything to do with ceramics. Even when working with a very limited palette, Kaipiainen created new hues. For instance, he would paint tiny dots onto a solid colour background. Kaipiainen was hardworking and quite modest at the factory, but he loved opulence. This is evident from his works.
“Birger was very industrious and productive. I admired how he was able to shift his focus from object to object and get on with tackling his next theme. He maintained his style!” says Toikka. “He was a brilliant conversationalist and an excellent artist. He translated the essence of his artistic vision into a set of Arabia tableware in 1969.”
Fruit and flowers move from the Art Department to the factory floor in 1969
“Birger talked about the fruits his friends brought him when he fell ill with polio at the age of 23. They were ‘so lovely’ that he couldn’t eat them. And for this reason his platters also feature large fruit – blue and red, green, bright yellow.
Marjatta Pauloff, 1988
Birgitta Carring – the daughter of Carl Gustaf Herlitz, the long-serving president of Arabia – wished that Birger Kaipiainen would design tableware for Arabia’s range. Her wish finally came true in 1969, when Kaipiainen designed and decorated Paratiisi. Prior to this, Kaipiainen had designed the Ravenna pattern for Arabia in 1954 and the Tapetti copper print pattern for a model designed by Olga Osol, which was produced from 1953 to 1962.
Before the Paratiisi series went into production, King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium visited Kaipiainen’s atelier in Midsummer 1969. The Queen fell in love with Paratiisi and wanted a set for her home. At the end of the year, Paratiisi was unveiled to the public. Alongside the colourful Paratiisi, Kaipiainen designed the yellow Aatami and pure white Eeva. Black and white decorations evoked the Nordic winter. The artist wished to combine the decorative Paratiisi with single-coloured yellow and white dishes.
At around that same time, Kaipiainen designed Apila, a pattern used to decorate factory seconds of the Paratiisi model. These decorations were rediscovered in the Arabia archives a few years ago and Apila was reintroduced into the Arabia collection in 2006. Like Paratiisi, the Apila theme is featured in Kaipiainen’s unique works. In addition to Apila, the Paratiisi model has also been decorated with Kaipiainen’s pared-down Sunnuntai (Sunday).
Before creating the Paratiisi decorations, Kaipiainen explored fruit and floral themes, such as fruit trees and lush violets. Kaipiainen loved parties, conversation and socialising – abundance and opulence. Friends were very important to Kaipiainen. One of his closest friends was his gifted longterm assistant Terho Reijonen.
With Reijonen, he created numerous works from beads, such as Orvokkimeri (Sea of Violets) for Expo 67 in Montreal. Orvokkimeri measured a staggering 4.5 m x 9 m, was made from 2 million beads and took half a year to complete. It was the most valuable piece on display. It is now located in the chamber of the Tampere City Council. Violets are also featured in the Paratiisi decorations. Blackcurrants look like gleaming beads on the ceramic plates.
“I like materials that gleam and glitter!”
Birger Kaipiainen, Kaunis koti magazine, 2/1960
Paratiisi was only produced until 1974, when the Arabia factory was impacted by the global oil crisis. In addition to Paratiisi, Kaj Franck’s Kilta was discontinued. That year, Arabia merged with Rörstrand. In spite of the recession, some of Arabia’s artists could stay on at the Art Department: Birger Kaipiainen, Rut Bryk and Heljä Liukko-Sundström, who now works in Kaipiainen’s former atelier.
The second coming of Paratiisi
Kaipiainen elaborated on his Paratiisi theme in his unique works in the 1970s and 1980s. His decorations blossomed with new colours and he added new flowers to his garden. Kaipiainen received many awards in Finland and abroad, among them the Grand Prix in Milan, 1951, Pro Finlandia Medal, 1963 and Prince Eugen Medal, 1982. He was conferred the title of professor in 1977.
The much-awaited return of Paratiisi to Arabia’s collection took place in 1988. Arabia had just built new tunnel kilns and changed over from faience to vitreous porcelain. Kaipiainen slightly refashioned the Paratiisi tableware. The plates underwent the most visible transformation, from oval to round. He also reworked the dimensions of some of the dishes.
The creator of Paratiisi passed away in July that year, at the end of a working day on 18 August 1988. His unique decorations live on in many Finnish homes.
”... Birger is the uncrowned king of decorative artists ... His endless imagination, assured taste and bold style make even a dreary ordinary workroom look like a garden from The Arabian Nights.”
Kurt Ekholm, 1948
For more information, please contact:
Communications Manager | Arabia
Tel. +358 (0)204 39 5431