“Who is your favourite designer?”

A surprisingly hard question to answer. Most often people name names of men we read about in magazines or see featured in documentaries.

Heard of Lilly Reich, Gunta Stölzl, Marianne Brandt, Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, Florence Knoll or Ray Eames? There’s a good chance you haven’t.

How about Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, Philippe Starck, Arne Jacobsen or Eero Saarinen?

There are numerous people whose design shaped the reality we see and feel but who are rarely mentioned when history is told.

101 Designers tells these stories – through 101 posts about people who helped shape our art, society and daily lives.

“Being a woman, I was given interiors,” – Florence Knoll, who in 1961 became the first woman to receive the Gold Medal for Industrial Design from the American Institute of Architects and who has been credited with revolutionizing office design and bringing modernist design to office interiors.

Greta-Lisa Jäderholm-Snellman

Greta Lisa Jäderholm-Snellman was born in 1894 in Helsinki and passed away in 1973 in Alicante, Spain. She was one of the first female ceramists in Finland and worked in many different materials throughout her career.

Born to parents Herman Jäderholm and Hilma Nyberg, she matriculated from Nya Svenska Samskolan in 1912 and later studied at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki. Jäderholm-Snellman started her career in France in 1919 at the Atelier de Lachenal where she produced a series of turquoise Art Deco inspired ceramics.

In 1921 she moved back to Finland and began work at the ceramic factory Oy Arabia Ab’s factory in Helsinki. Jäderholm-Snellman is perhaps known for the period she spent at Arabia, renewing table settings and bringing in art influences from her time spent abroad in Europe. She both designed new homeware objects as well as the decoration style used on existing models. The style of the time used oriental and nature motives, strong colours and silvery etchings, as well as a craquelèe glaze. Jäderholm-Snellman also led the “Beautiful everyday goods” department that was established in 1929 to develop household items accessible to a broader audience.

In 1937 she moved to Paris together with her husband Eero Snellman to participate in and assist at the Paris World Fair. While there she worked for a couple of years at the Sèvres factory in France – producer of some of the finest porcelain in Europe. She simultaneously worked at the Riihimäki Lasi glass factory from 1937 to 1949 and at Oy Ahlström Ab’s Iittala glass factory from 1945 to 1962.

Jäderholm-Snellman held solo ceramic exhibitions at the Helsinki gallery Galerie Hörhammer in 1921, 1922 and 1925, at L’atelier 75 in Paris in 1933 and in the showroom of the Heal & Son department store in 1937. Most of the objects at the Heal exhibition were sold with some donated to the Victoria & Albert Museum. The exhibit at Studio Schrader in Copenhagen in 1949 displayed her glass designs and it is said to be a starting point for her successful work in that medium. She also worked with metal and wood at Taidetakomo Antti Hakkarainen and Veljekset Backman. It’s worth noting that Jäderholm-Snellman used her own initials GLJ on many of her designs, a practice not common among designers at that time.

”It is certainly difficult at times, namely to be an independent woman and the ’head’ of the family at the same time, and occasionally a factory girl, a mother and a wife. But as an artist himself, my husband understands. And I’m so terribly enthusiastic about my work!” Jäderholm-Snellman in an interview in 1929.

  • Greta Lisa Jäderholm-Snellman
  • 1894 – 1973
  • She made study trips to Sweden, England and France 1914–1932
  • Atelier de Lachenal in France 1919 to 1921
  • Oy Arabia Ab’s in Finland 1921 to 1937
  • Sèvres factory in France 1937 to 1939
  • Riihimäki Lasi Oy in Finland 1937 to 1949
  • Oy Ahlström Ab’s Iittala glass factory 1945 to 1962.
  • Taught porcelain painting at the School of Arts and Crafts 1929–1937
  • Member of the board of directors of the Cité Internationale des Arts à Paris 1958 to 1973
  • Member of the board of the Foundation of the City of Artists in Paris 1960 to 1973.
  • Worked as a freelance writer for several Finnish magazines and helped edit the Ornamo Yearbook of Decorative Art
  • Solo exhibitions at Galerie Hörhammer in 1921, 1922 and 1925, at L’atelier 75 in Paris in 1933, in the showroom of the Heal & Son department store in 1937 and at Studio Schrader in Copenhagen in 1949
  • Awarded at the Milan Triennale in 1933.
  • Married to the artist Eero Snellman, one daughter, painter Maria Christina Snellman.


Art Deco ja taiteet France–Finlande 1905–1935 by Hannele Nyman and Auli Suortti-Vuorio: ”Greta-Lisa Jäderholm-Snellman” pages 119–127. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2013

Ingeborg Lundin

Ingeborg Lundin was born in 1921 in Sweden and is most known for her extensive glass work at Orrefors from the 1940s up until the 1970s – her most famous work being ‘The Apple’.

Her family moved to Chicago in the US when she was young but when her mother died and her father remarried, she was sent back to Sweden to live with a relative. After school, Lundin started studying drawing at the University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm where she also served as a teacher later on.

She found employment at the legendary glass works in Orrefors when a position opened up and she joined the company as their first significant female glass artist in 1947. The glass industry was still a male-dominated industry at the time and Lundin initially found it hard to be taken seriously by the glass workers she worked with, although she did find a glass-blower willing to create her designs.

Her first glassware came out in 1948 and it was exhibited at the Nordiska Kompaniet department store in Stockholm that same year. The technique used in the early pieces tended to be decorated glass artwork with engraved decorations on clear crystal but Lundin experimented with different engraving techniques, such as diamond cutting.

Some of her more select pieces are her exquisite Timglas from 1952 (Hour glass) both serving as drinking glasses as well as art pieces. Prizes such as the gold medal at the Triennale in 1957 gave her international recognition – the large apple shaped mouth blown crystal piece with a green tint would become her signature piece.

Ingeborg Lundin also designed innovative everyday ware glass such as jugs and drinking glasses for Sandviks glassworks – a side business of Orrefors. For the 1955 exhibition H55 in Hälsingborg, she designed a tableware called Bob. In the 1960s Lundin returned to engravings, the pieces from that time period often being cylindrical with multilayers and abstract scrawls.

The Swedish design industry experienced difficulties in the early 1970s due to changes in the market, and as a consequence Ingeborg Lundin was let go by Orrefors in 1970 after more than 20 years at the factory. It was only twenty years later that she returned to the industry and created a series of unique glass objects for Målerås glasbruk in the early 1990s. Lundin was unfortunately involved in an accident in 1991 and she died in Orrefors the following year.

  • Ingeborg Lundin
  • 1921-1992
  • Received the Lunning Prize in 1954
  • Won gold at the Milan Triennale in 1957
  • Exhibitions at Nordiska kompaniet and Småland’s museum in 1952
  • The National Museum, The Röhsska Museum of Design and Craft in 1954,
  • The exhibition in Hälsingborg in 1955
  • The Design in Scandinavia tour in the US 1954-1955
  • Lundin’s works are represented at the National Museum in Stockholm and The Röhsska Museum of Design and Craft.


Raija Uosikkinen

Raija Liisa Uosikkinen (1923 – 2004) is mainly known for the illustrations and patterns she made for the design companies Arabia and Finel in the 1950-1970s.

She studied porcelain painting at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki from 1944 to 1947, and immediately started working at the ceramics factory Arabia after graduating. Her close friend and fellow illustrator, Esteri Tomula, was also recruited and they became colleagues up until the 1980s. One of Uosikkinen’s first tasks was to create illustrations for the newly appointed Kaj Franck’s B model ceramics. These illustrations were called Pellervo, Linnea and Polaris. Uosikkinen became head of the Arabia decoration department established in 1952.

In the late 1940s Franck started working on a new ceramic series called Kilta, launched to great success in 1953, and then illustrated with Uosikkinen’s perhaps most well known illustration – Emilia – in 1957. The Emilia series consisted of characters in different milieus and the series would be produced up until 1966. Uosikkinen illustrated other series as well in the style of Emilia but under different names and with other motives. Although the decorative Emilia series caused an uproar at the factory, the series was very well received by customers.

Other recognized illustrations are Pomona (1964-1971), stylized fruits on Ulla Procopé’s jars and the Ali pattern (1965-1970) – inspired by islamic ornaments. She drew inspiration for her designs from her extensive travels with more than 50 trips to East Asia and the Americas, documenting other cultures’ illustration styles with her camera.

With the oil crisis of 1973, Arabia had to rethink their ranges as well as accommodate new decoration styles of the time. Uosikkinen designed two annual collectors plate series in the mid to late 1970s: one featuring the Finnish epos Kalevala and the other Christmas scenes. The plates became hugely popular and it became Uosikkinen’s last work before retiring in 1986.

  • Raija Liisa Uosikkinen
  • 1923 – 2004
  • Primarily known for her prolific illustrative work for Arabia and Finel, and for revitalising the porcelain illustration craft tradition in Finland.
  • Participated in numerous domestic and foreign exhibitions. Featured at the Triennale in Italy in 1954 and 1960 and well as at the World Fair in Brussels in 1958. Her Hattara illustration won gold in Sacramento in the US in 1961.
  • Taught decorative painting at the Toimela Free College and the University of Art and Design Helsinki parallell to her work.


Helsingin Sanomat: Taiteilija Raija Uosikkinen

Vintageunelmia – Raija Uosikkinen’s Emilia series

Glorian Antiikki magazine, 7/2012

Esteri Tomula

Ilta Esteri Tomula (1920 – 1998) was a Finnish ceramic artist and designer who did her main body of work at the Arabia ceramics factory in Helsinki, Finland from the late 1940s up until the beginning of the 1980s.

She grew up in Helsinki but the family’s roots were in Satakunta, further up north in Finland, where her father bought a summer place. Tomula spent much of her time there close to nature as a child as well as later in life, drawing inspiration for her coming designs. Due to being stunted in her physical development, Tomula decided to study porcelain painting at the Ateneum ceramics department as the throwing and handling of the clay was not possible for her.

After graduating in 1947, she immediately found work at the ceramics department at Arabia in Helsinki, where her decoration style would complement and in some cases break with the norm at the time. Another decorating artist and fellow student, Raija Uosikkinen, begun working at Arabia at the same time and they followed each other for three decades at the factory until Tomula’s retirement in the early 1980s.

Tomula is known for her decorative work on other designer’s items, mainly working with Kaj Franck and Olga Osol on both enamel and ceramics. The designs were made by combining printing and painting – black outlines first being screen-printed on the item and then filled with colourful details, painted by hand. This technique was enabled by new printing machines aquired by Arabia in the late 1950s. The golden age of decorated porcelain occurred during the 1950s and 60s and towards the 1970s and 80s if fell out of fashion. But Tomula’s work has seen a revival on the second hand market.

Esteri Tomula never married and she set up a foundation in her name with the task to fund the purchase of domestic and international ceramics, including her own works, to be added to the collection of the Design Museum in Helsinki.

  • Ilta Esteri “Essu” Tomula
  • 1920 – 1998
  • Famous design illustrations include Pastoraali, Vegeta, Botanica, Fennica, Krokus, Neptune and Tatti – printed on wall plates, bowls, cups and many other items.
  • Apart from her day work, Esteri Tomula served as an hourly teacher at the adult education centre in Helsinki.


Meillä kotona: Esteri Tomula

Gerda Thesleff

Gerda Thesleff was born in Helsinki, Finland in 1871 and she became a pioneer as one of the first studio ceramists in Finland.

Thesleff initially studied to become a physical therapist in Stockholm but studied at the University School of Arts, Design and Architecture from 1898 to 1906 as well as in 1909-1910, where she was taught by the renowned designer Alfred William Finch. She learned how to turn ceramics, a heavy manual task at the time, and experimented with both her motives and techniques.

She was employed at the ceramic factory Arabia 1922–24, where she worked with designer Elin Juselius and they exhibited together in 1922. At Arabia, Thesleff created pottery decorated with plant and flower motives and decorations inspired by her long trips in Italy with her sister Ellen. Over time she would be overshadowed by her older sister and in documentations she is called an enabler of her sister’s art. After their parents passed away, the sisters were left with small means that enabled Ellen to focus on her art with Gerda as a financial advisor. Gerda also regularly worked as a physical therapist which helped them financially.

In 1897 Gerda Thesleff travelled to Florence for the first time and over the years, she and Ellen would divide their time with other members of their family between Finland and Italy. In 1900 all sisters Thesleff and their mother Lilli travelled to Paris where Ellen was working and Gerda started studying wood sculpture. Their travels would inspire Ellen and Gerda up until 1938 when they visited Florence, Italy for the last time. Gerda fell ill during the trip and they both returned home. She never recovered and passed away at 68 in 1939.

Ellen Thesleff exhibited her lastest work at Salon Stringberg in Helsinki in 1941 and decided to also display Gerda’s ceramics and water paintings. Gerda’s work did however not receive much attention during the lifetime although she practiced as a ceramist for over 30 years. She also worked in other materials such as wood sculptures, leather works and wood cuts.

  • Gerda Thesleff
  • 1871–1939
  • Represented at the National museums in Helsinki and Stockholm as well as in Collection Kakkonen
  • Participated in exhibitions in St. Petersburg and Copenhagen
  • Retrospective exhibition in 1999 at the Arabia Museum in Helsinki


Svea Winkler

Svea Winkler’s family originated from Germany but her grandfather Eduard Winkler had moved to Finland and founded a tinplate factory in the 1880s.

Winkler graduated from secondary school in 1944 and continued her studies at the University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, from where she graduated in 1949 with a broad knowledge of design. After her studies she worked at different architectural firms, designing interiors for banks, offices and public spaces. In 1950 she moved on to the retail cooperate SOK, where she designed shops, restaurants and hotel interiors.

With her background in interior design, Winkler was hired by the thriving department store Stockmann in 1956 to design different departments at stores in Finland. Stockmann owned both a furniture (Keravan Puuteollisuus) and a lighting factory (Orno) and in 1959 Winkler joined designers Yki Nummi and Lisa Johansson-Pape at the latter. She was tasked with developing custom lamps for projects ranging from banks to restaurants and hotels.

A common feature for Winkler’s lamps are clean and geometric shapes and her most famous design is perhaps the Kuli, which was inspired by a Chinese straw hat and has been made in many variations since 1961.

Winkler developed the Pomona and Omena lamps for the hotel and restaurant Victoria in Tampere in 1964 and they were used in many other hotels and restaurants as well. In 1963 Winkler designed a series of origami like acrylic lamps which were named Lapponia. Apart from acrylic, she also used metal, glass and fabrics in her designs and although many of them were sold and used in Finland, they were also exported.

Svea Winkler left Orno in 1968.

  • Svea Winkler
  • (1924-2003)
  • Interior decorator and light designer
  • Stockmann & Orno 1956-1968
  • Interiors for hotels, restaurants, public offices and banks in Finland
  • Finnish Industrial Design exhibits in Europe and Japan 1958-1968
  • The grand Stockmann Orno exhibit of 1963
  • Study trips to European manufacturers and fairs in the 1950-1960s


Orno : valaisinmuotoilua – Leena Karttunen, Hannele Nyman, Juri Mykkänen

Elsa Gullberg

Elsa Gullberg, born Svensson in 1886 was a Swedish interior architect and textile designer, who pioneered the industrialisation of textile production.

Gullberg grew up in a bourgeois family as the oldest child in a group of five children. She had intended to train as a doctor, but when her father went out of business and then passed away, she was forced to find another profession.

She moved to Stockholm where she applied to the University of Arts, Crafts and Design, after which she took a job as textile artist Lilli Zickerman’s assistant at the Swedish Handicraft Association. It gave Gullberg basic knowledge of textiles and also an opportunity to save money for studies abroad. In 1909 she visited Paris and London, and in 1913 at the Deutscher Werkbund and Dresdner Werkstätte in Hellerau.

At her visits abroad she came in contact with the new ideas of creating industrially produced goods which quality would be equivalent to handcrafted goods. In 1917, Gullberg was engaged by the Swedish Handicraft Association / Svensk Form to put these ideas into practice. The handicraft association set up an agency to direct artists to the design industry, and Gullberg became the agency’s director. Together with Erik Wettergren, she mediated Edward Hald to Rörstrand’s porcelain factory, Wilhelm Kåge to Gustavsberg’s porcelain factory, Edvin Ollers to Kosta glassworks and Arthur Percy to Gefle porcelain factory. To Kåberg’s wallpaper factory, she hired Carl Malmsten, Gunnar Asplund and Uno Åhrén to make patterns.

She herself started a testing facility for machine-woven fabrics with the idea of ​​transferring the “principle of needlework to a machine operation” and an important result of the activity was the Home Exhibition in 1917 at Liljevalch’s art gallery, which made Gullberg a leading figure in Stockholm’s aesthetic circles.

In 1927, Gullberg started the company Elsa Gullbergs Textil och Inredningar AB, one of Sweden’s first modern interior design companies, with a focus on functionalism with a tradition-based style. Elsa Gullberg designed many of the company’s designs herself, with the help of Märta Afzelius from 1928. However alongside Gullberg, the company’s main designs were made by Arthur Percy and Vicke Lindstrand.

Among Gullberg’s own designs are textiles such as the furniture fabric “Flamviggar” (1927), the tablecloth “Prickduken” (1934) and fabric print “Liljor” which was shown at the world exhibition in New York in 1939.

  • Elsa Gullberg
  • 1886 – 1984
  • Participated in many public projects, including Stockholm Concert Hall (1925), M / S Kungsholm, the Matchstick Palace (1928) (1928), Gothenburg City Hall (1937) and Malmö City Theater (1944).
  • Took part in the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930 with the tapestries Black Diana designed by Nils Dardel and the Crucifixion by Märta Afzelius.
  • Became the first in Sweden to handprint with film printing in 1935, with the help of Richard Künzl from Vienna.
  • Gullberg is represented at the National Museum in Stockholm and the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg.

Marjukka Pääkkönen-Paasivirta

The ceramics company Kupittaan Savi was founded in 1921 and was in business until 1969 when it was forced into bankruptcy. Starting in the 1950s the work of three designers stood out: Marjukka Paasivirta, Linnea Lehtonen and Orvokki Laine, and in early 1960s, Heidi Blomstedt. The company’s slogan was ”Objects of art, whose inexpensiveness amazes everyone”.

Marjukka Pääkkönen started in 1949 and served as the the company’s artistic director from 1950 until 1960, when Orvokki Laine took over. Marjukka was a modernist and it’s said that her role models were ceramists Kaj Franck and Marita Lybeck.

Identifying items by Kupittaan Savi is slightly difficult as the company did not use annual stamps, although they did use imprints in the clay. In the 1950s introduced the practice of marking the items with the designer’s and painter’s initials as well as Made in Finland.

  • Marjukka Pääkkönen
  • Marjukka married professor Juhani Paasivirta in 1953.
  • Received a silver medal at the Italian Triennales in the 1954, together with Orvokki Laine and Linnea Lehtonen.

Elna Kiljander

Elna Kiljander was born in 1889 and is perhaps best known as one of Finland’s earliest female architects of model homes and kitchens but also for her furniture designs, many displayed at her concept store Koti-Hemmet home in Helsinki. Kiljander was a feminist, becoming a member of Architecta, the Finnish women’s architecture association, from its establishment in 1942.

Born on 4 November 1889 in Sortavala, Finland Elna Kiljander was the daughter of a Finnish father and a Swedish mother. After her father detah, the family moved to Helsinki, where Kiljander graduated as an architect from the Helsinki University of Technology in 1915. She went on to teach graphic design in Povenets in Russian Karelia but returned to Finland the following year. She opened a private office, concentrating on social living matters and everyday furnishings in the home.

Kiljander became interested in functionalism when visiting the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930 and subsequently adopted it in her housing designs as well as in the model kitchens she developed for the Martha Association. Kiljander planned kitchens for homes and schools and in 1932 she planned the renowned modern large kitchen in the Parliament Building.

Her friendship with Finland’s first female politican Miina Sillanpää nurtured her work on model homes and kitchens for workers, as well as furnishings and furniture. Sillanpää commissioned Kiljander’s most important work: the Ensi-Koti home – one of her most important works. The Ensi-Koti (First Home), was a home built in 1940 for unmarried mothers and their children and Kiljander had herself become a single mother after a brief marriage with the sculptor Gunnar Finne from 1918 to 1926.

Together with textile designer Marianne Strengell, she founded interior design studio Koti-Hemmet in 1934, an interior design business where she designed furniture in a style closely resembling that adopted later by Alvar Aalto in the 1930s – a pre-Artek store where Aalto’s furniture was sold. Influenced by developments in Swedish design, her work exerted a significant impact on Finnish interior design in the 1930s. Koti-Hemmet declared bankruptcy in 1949, which ultimately lead to Kiljander’s retirement from architectural work.

  • Elna Kiljander
  • 1889 – 1970
  • The kitchen at the domestic science teacher school in Järvenpää, 1928
  • Furniture for the Parliament Building in Helsinki, 1932
  • The boy’s room at the Paris World Fair, 1937
  • The Ensikoti union’s house in Helsinki, 1942

Li Englund

Lyyli Inkeri (Li) Englund (née Uotila 1908 – 1993) was a Finnish costume and textile designer.

She attended the Ateneum school from 1930 to 1933, studying to become an art teacher. It was here that she met her future husband, Kaj Englund, who at the time was a teacher at the school. They married in 1935 and their first child was born the following year.

Li would go on to have a long career and also worked as an assistant at Kaj Englund’s architectural firm designing wallpaper and interiors for his projects, her handiwork can be seen in the architectural drawings.

She also designed fabrics for Artek, alongside the company’s other pattern designer Aino Aalto. Englund’s printed fabrics were often inspired by nature in floral patterns or classically straightforward graphics. She also designed for theaters and at the time the costumes and hats she designed for herself were the most eloquent “Haute couture” in Helsinki.

Kaj and his brother Dag drew and built Villa Bjerges on Lauttasaari, Helsinki in 1937 and it became the home for many of the Englund families. Li Englund especially liked the garden and it was often featured in interior decoration magazines in the 1940s-1960s.

  • Lyli Inkeri (Li) Englund
  • 1908 – 1993
  • Fabric and interior designer