Kastehelmi in the 1960s. Design Oiva Toikka.
When news began to spread that the Kastehelmi range was to be relaunched, we received a lot of positive feedback: Great, Excellent News, Finally! For many people born in the 1960s and 1970s, Kastehelmi still brings back memories of their childhood years, time spent with their grandparents, or secret hideaways in the country at the family’s summer cottage. Many people would like to see old ranges reintroduced, but changes in production techniques, moulds that have been lost, or simply the fact that the know-how needed no longer exists, or that a product has become too dated, often make it impossible. Oiva Toikka’s 50th anniversary as a designer is such a major event for Iittala, however, that we wanted to celebrate it by highlighting a product from his rich output that would bring back memories, suits today’s tastes, and attract consumers – which is why we decided on Kastehelmi.
When Oiva Toikka was designing a new range of glassware at Nuutajärvi in 1964, he found that it was still difficult to get a truly even, blemish-free surface when producing pressed glass plates. As a result, Toikka decided to design a band of drops running around the edge of the plates to cover any possible blemishes, which he then extended over the entire surface. The result was Kastehelmi, which features a swirl of glass bubbles extended out from the centre. Although the range was designed from the start for everyday use, the bubbles in the glass gave pieces a special touch that made them look somehow ‘better’ than everyday glass. Ironically, they also made the range easy to produce from a practical point of view. Like many Toikka designs, the name of the range was inspired by nature, this time by the beads of dew that can be seen along stalks of grass and other plants in the sunlight on a summer morning.
Two plates – 170 cm and 260 mm across – were available initially, in clear, smoke, olive, and turquoise. A couple of year later, these were joined by a 140 mm plate in clear, blue, and green, and another couple of years later by a 310 mm plate in the same colours. Bowls (110, 200, and 250 mm) were added in 1969, and a creamer and a hot toddy glass in 1970. All these were available in clear, blue, and green, except for the hot toddy glass, which was produced only in clear and green. A candlestick and candle base followed, together with two plates (315 mm and 87 mm) and a 150 mm bowl. In 1973, all the pieces then in production were made available in brown as well, while blue was withdrawn. A vase that could double as a candlestick also joined the range for a short time. At its most extensive in the 1970s, the range included 25 pieces. Beginning in 1978, however, the range became available only in clear glass and individual items began to be withdrawn. Kastehelmi reached the end of the line in 1989, when production ceased. A few products were produced subsequently in 1995-1996 as special runs for the US and remainders from these runs were sold at Iittala’s factory shops in Finland.
Kastehelmi was produced in very large numbers, and plates proved the most popular items, thanks to the range of sizes that they were available in and the fact that they suited to both everyday and more formal or festive use. As a result of changes in production methods, the Kastehelmi pieces that have now been reintroduced look slightly different from the originals, with rounder edges on the plates for example. The new pieces complement the old ones well, however, and also work very well on their own, bringing a hint of welcome nostalgia to the 2010s.