Visiting Arabia

June 21st, 2009

After the Aalto house tour we hightailed it across town to visit the Arabia factory. Why did we cram so much awesomeness into one day? Because we had to—a three day holiday was about to cramp our style.

When we arrived the building was almost deserted and the info desk closed (Iittala store, however, was of course open). We headed up to the 9th floor to the museum, which also appeared to be closed, though the door was unlocked. So we went inside and waited…for something, someone to show up. And show up they did! We met Arabia’s PR Coordinator Kristiina and she graciously brought us around on a private tour of the Arabia factory. Unfortunately, most of the operations were shut down for the holidays and maintenance so there wasn’t too much action to be seen. Also, we didn’t get too many nitty gritty details, as our tour wasn’t an official tour (you have to pre-book those and they seem harder to come by than the multiple times daily that we were so presumptuous to assume). So photographs will have to suffice!


The Arabia factory makes me feel like Charlie at Willy Wonka’s factory.


We walked through the big doors into the Kiln room, it was seriously huge. Above is one of several massive tunnel kilns. The product is on a conveyer belt that moves very very slowly through the length of the kiln. More photos after the  jump!


You can see a bit of the extreme heat being generated from deep within the kiln.


Here’s a batch coming out of the kiln! Sadly we are not sure which product this is!


After it comes out of the kiln, it slowly rolls onto another conveyor belt like dolly.


Outside the kiln room there is tons and tons of product waiting for the next step.


I really loved the look of unfinished ceramics, I just wanted to take everything home.


Here are the handmade work stations. There are still many products at Arabia that are handmade. It takes a genuine company to produce ceramics locally. I’m sure there was a lot of pressure to close down the factory and move production to China. I think people should start investing a little more in quality china, it makes your dining experience so much better and also it feels nice supporting local companies. I also think I need to follow some of my own advice.


There is a rigorous quality control with handmade products and a lot don’t make the cut. I really wanted to just take a piece of clay, half a cup, a smushed vase, whatever. Since this clay is unfired, it can be recycled.


Here’s a closer look at what goes into producing handmade ceramics at the Arabia factory. The molds are at the bottom of the photograph and take a look at the top shelf for what the mold produces.


After the object comes out of the mold workers have to smooth down the sides by hand and repair any imperfections.


Here is the final product! Looks pretty good to me.


Remember this plate? It looks so much better in black and white. Too bad it’s probably the only one in existence.


Abandoned gloves.


Ready for the next shipment.


A big thrill of the Factory tour was visiting Iittala’s beautiful showroom.


Our favorite set that we saw was Harri Koskinen’s Oma tableware. Harri Koskinen is our generation’s Kaj Franck. The combination between ceramic and glass is so beautiful, I really just wanted to buy a whole set of this stuff. I neither have enough room in my suitcase or enough money. Actually all I need is a suitcase full of money, then I’ll switch the money with the tableware.


Kristiina didn’t let us leave empty handed. After showing us some cool artist studios on the 9th floor, where Arabia designers are provided with spaces to also create artworks, she gave us a mug designed by Heikki Orvola for the Birger Kaipiainen Paratiisi line, which is having its 40th year anniversary. We were also given some coupons for the factory store, but the small number of deals weren’t deal enough for our already teeming baggage and beyond empty wallets.

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