Birger Kaipiainen (1.7.1915-18.7.1988) is one of the most famous and internationally rewarded ceramic designers of Finland. Birger Kaipiainen made a long career at Arabia Art Department creating thousands of unique art works and also designing several well-known tableware e.g. Paratiisi (1969) and Apila (1970).

 

Birger Kaipiainen was well-known for his romantic and colorful style which was not typical in Finland. His enormous attention to details and endless desire to decorate is well-reflected in his artwork which typically have hundreds of glass pearls and all of the empty spaces filled with different ornaments. According to Harri Kalha (the art history docent of Helsinki University) Birger Kaipiainen mixed art categories and still raises questions. His original mysterious picture-fantasy already fascinated his contemporaries​, but on the other hand, in the field of modern design, his rich imagery was disliked. In visual arts circles, the overwhelming decorativeness was marveled. On this day, ceramists absorb ornaments​, designers colors and artists organic themes resembling those of Birger Kaipiainen.​

 

The main themes of Birger Kaipiainen's artwork included flowers (especially violas), female figures, butterflies, dragonflies, fruits, berries and birds namely curlews and  larks. Apart from the polymorphic forms gleaned from nature, he was also influenced by historical styles and classical era ceramics. Kaipiainen loved literature, classical music, opera, ballet and jet set parties with his celebrity friends including Armi Ratia (founder of Marimekko). Birger Kaipiainen has been characterized to be a ceramics painter who liked to play with different forms and shapes between the boundaries of two and tree dimensional spaces. His ceramic unique artworks show signs of both cubist and surrealistic characteristics. He was influenced also by Byzantine, early Renaissance and Karelian mysticism. Nothing seems to have restrained his imagination and he once said: "Imagination does not cost anything. It does not have limits and no one can tell where imagination ends."

 

According to Birger Kaipiainen's long-term assistant Terho Reijonen, Birger Kaipiainen never praised his own work. Occasionally it seemed that some artwork pleased him especially much. That encouraged him to continue with the same style, same colors, same animal and plant themes. He has said that a new one will be created on the former basis​. Birger Kaipiainen also loved worked with other materials than ceramics. He drew numerous sketches and painted paintings as well as designed two very popular wallpapers "Kiurujen yö" and "Ken on kiuruista kaunein" which have been bestsellers since 1950s until today. He also designed costumes for several opera and ballet performances and a cloth doll "Annamolla" in 1967 for the readers of Anna magazine.

 

Birger Kaipiainen was a passionate designer who continued his career also after his retirement working almost every day until he died at age 73 at home after a typical working day. His colleague​ Oiva Toikka reminisces: ”Aristocratic Birger Kaipiainen was the prince of ceramics​. He is inimitable, he cannot be compared to anyone.”

 

Studies

  • 1933 – 1937 Art and Design College, Helsinki

 

Artist

  • 1937 – 1954 Arabia, Helsinki
  • 1948 – 1949 Richard Ginori, Italy
  • 1954 – 1958 Rörstrand, Sweden
  • 1958 – 1988 Arabia, Helsinki

 

Exhibitions

  • 1952 Wärtsilä, Helsinki
  • 1955 Bonniers, New York
  • 1956 Wärtsilä, Helsinki
  • 1958 Wärtsilä, Helsinki
  • 1964 Wärtsilä, Helsinki
  • 1965 Formes Finlandaises, Paris
  • 1958 Wärtsilä, Helsinki
  • 1971 Wärtsilä, Helsinki
  • 1973 Nordiska Kompaniet, Stockholm
  • 1976 Nordiska Kompaniet, Stockholm
  • 1977 Stockmann, Helsinki
  • 1978 Savonlinna Operafestival, Savonlinna
  • 1979 Wärtsilä, Helsinki
  • 1980 Nordiska Kompaniet, Stockholm
  • 1984 Wärtsilä, Helsinki
  • 1985 Rörstrand, Sveden
  • 1989 Museum of Applied Arts, memorial exhibition, Helsinki
  •  1990 Tammisaari Museum, memorial exhibition, Tammisaari, Finland

 

Major public collections of Birger Kaipiainen's artwork

  • Museum of Applied Arts, Helsinki
  • Röhsska Museet, Göteborg
  • Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
  • Malmö Museum
  • Museum of Applied Arts, Köpenhamn
  • Akademimuseum, Genova
  • Brera Gallery, Milano
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Kioto

 

Awards and honorary titles

  • 1938 Scholarship of the Kordelins foundation
  • 1951 Diplome d´Honneur, Milano
  • 1959 Scholarship of the Swedish Culturalfund
  • 1960 Grand Prix, Milan
  • 1961 Gold Plaquette Gualdo Tadino, Italy
  • 1963 Pro Finlandia
  • 1967 Grand Prix, Montreal International and Universal Exposition
    1970 Finland State and Helsinki City art prices
  • 1972 Illum art and design price
  • 1977 The title of Professor
  • 1982 Prins Eugen medal
  • Birger Kaipiainen street and Birger Kaipiainen yard in Helsinki Arabianranta