The International Iittala Cup is the contest for glassblowers from Scandinavia

“I’ve kept track. In my life I have blown about 800,000 Alvar Alto vases.” Impressive. This is Heikki Punkari, a master glassblower for 40 years at Iittala, the Finnish brand founded in 1881, known all over the world for the iconic vase designed in 1936 by Aalto, and other creations. Around the famous vase and its organic forms a curious event has taken place for 30 years, gathering the entire village of Iittala, the Finnish glass capital, to celebrate. It is the International Iittala Cup, a contest of skill at the recently expanded plant of the company, where glassblowers – mostly from Scandinavia, though this year the winner, József Újfalusi, was from Hungary – face off. The challenge is to blow the largest sphere and the longest cylinder, culminating in the moment everyone waits for: the creation of the biggest Aalto Vase. A very difficult operation, in physical terms, requiring the simultaneous work of 6 blowers. It is still not known if the vase blown in the contest on 10 May will manage to beat the height record of 106.7 cm, since the glass monolith is still in the cooling phase, and still has to go through the delicate cutting process. Since 2007 Ittala is part of the Fiskars Group, the Finnish multinational founded 365 years ago as a metal shop, and now the world’s largest producer of scissors, blades and garden tools. The group also contains, in the Fiskars Home division, other outstanding brands of design for the table: Arabia, Hackman, Rörstrand and Royal Copenhagen (acquired in 2013 ). (K.C.)