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.