Scandia cutlery designed by Kaj Franck, produced in Hackman, Sorsakosi, Finland, 1952-89. Photo: Otso Pietinen
Kaj Franck’s Scandia cutlery range, originally designed in 1952, has recently been relaunched by Iittala. The Finnish designer’s creations – including the Teema tableware and Kartio glass series – had a huge influence on the mid-century table and on how we eat today. We spoke to Katja Karttunen, Product Manager of Cutlery at Iittala, about the influence of the original design and some of the factors that informed its reissue.
Portrait of Kaj Franck.
Why do you think Kaj Franck’s tableware became such a success and continues to be collected today?
Kaj Franck was a master of Finnish design, creating timeless pieces with sustainable values, which makes them very relevant in every time. One of his principles was that well-thought-out items should not be exclusive, but an essential part of everyday for everyone. His design thinking is still relevant to people who appreciate simple design and ease of use. Kaj Franck’s precision and his stripping away of everything excessive makes his designs very pleasing to the eye and so comfortable to use that they feel like an extension of your hand.
The successful Kilta series (today known as Teema) was created in an act of protest against traditional dinnerware sets, as post-war modern living meant people were moving to smaller apartments with less space. New living required multifunctional and stackable items, simple enough to be combined with more decorative pieces at home. Teema is a versatile collection with combinations of shapes, sizes and colours. It serves our changing dining needs – they are suitable for serving, storing and even freezing and food preparation in the oven.
In many ways Kaj Franck set the standard for the modern dinner table. Teema tableware was designed for the modern urban lifestyle, something completely new in a world filled with decorative table sets. Scandia cutlery set a new standard – it sat between traditional silverware and the very basic steel cutlery that was standard in ordinary Finnish homes.
The reissued Scandia serving set by Kaj Franck. Photograph courtesy of Iittala
What has the influence of Kaj Franck’s Scandia been?
Whereas in continental Europe and the wealthier Scandinavian countries, people were used to silver cutlery, the Finns – rebuilding their country after the war – mostly used simple, sturdy steel utensils produced by local factories, Hackman and Fiskars. Scandia was created for practical needs and it hit the spot due to its modern looks, practicality and affordability. During the 40 years that it was in production, it became one of the most popular cutlery in Finland, you can still find a lot of old Scandia in Finnish homes and secondhand markets.
Scandia renewed the way everyday cutlery was designed and perceived. After Scandia, the design elements became a modern international standard. Scandia was Kaj Franck’s only cutlery: of his three designs it was the only one that made it to production. We have decided to reissue it in response to consumer requests to bring the beloved range back to the market!
Kaj Franck’s Teema tableware collection. Photograph courtesy of Iittala
Can you outline some of the unique features of the Scandia range?
Kaj Franck flattened the spikes of the fork and created a solid base to the root of the spikes for easier picking of peas and rice from the plate. The spoon was designed to be rounder and deeper for use with soups, the coffee spoon was of a practical size to serve more purposes than one. Even with the serving items, both parts were designed for the same mould to ensure cost efficient production. Sturdy structure and lines on the handles supported ergonomics and stability. In the reissue, we’ve made the set slightly larger, as modern dining requires a slightly bigger size. The new parts are carefully improved by being true to the original design, to keep the precise measurements and scaling of the items.
Reissued Scandia cutlery set by Kaj Franck. Photograph courtesy of Iittala
What’s your favourite feature about this range?
I like the tactile feel of the lines on the handles when I hold the cutlery in my hands. I also like the simple and beautiful design especially in the knife. Of course there is something very familiar to me when I hold the new cutlery – my family used to have the old classics in everyday use when I was a child.
My parents told me that they got the cutlery from my grandmother, the cutlery was already in use when my mother was young and after my parents received the original ones they started to collect more of them. I guess many families in Finland tell the same story. Timeless classics in everyday use.
Read about British mid-century cutlery by David Mellor and Robert Welch here
Explore our buyer’s guide to the work of Finnish glass designer Tapio Wirkkala