The Mint of Finland has officially launched its silver collector coins honoring one of the country’s most respected designers. Tapio Wirkkala was a highly versatile designer and artist whose designs for commonplace products like glass, wood, porcelain, metal, and plastics earned his work a reputation for “belonging” to the everyday lives of Finns.
Born on June 2, 1915 in Hanko, South Finland, he spent his childhood with his parents, Ilmari and Selma, and his younger siblings. All the children of the family inherited artistic talent from their parents and later went on to occupations in the arts. The family later moved to Finland’s capital city of Helsinki in the 1920s; by this time Wirkkala’s drawing skills were already noticed in primary school and he went on to study ornamental sculpture at the Central School of Arts and Crafts from 1933 to 1936.
Wirkkala’s phenomenal drawing skills stood him in good stead when, in 1939, he won one of the first design competitions he entered, conceiving a postage stamp for the subsequently cancelled Helsinki Olympic Games, planned for 1940. These designs were later revised in 1951 for the Helsinki Olympics of 1952.
Wirkkala is also fondly remembered as the artist behind one of Finland’s longest running banknote series’. Following their introduction in 1955, these notes were in constant use, with minor alterations, until 1981. It was the first series of Finnish banknotes to depict specific people, including former presidents Juho Kusti Paasikivi (on the 10 markkaa note) and K. J. Ståhlberg (on the 50 markkaa), nobleman J. V. Snellman (on the 100 markkaa), and Finland’s longest serving president, Urho Kekkonen (on the 500 markkaa note).
Wirkkala designed glass objects for the Venini glassworks in Italy, as well as porcelain and cutlery for the Rosenthal factory in Germany. In Finland, he designed glass for Iittala and the Ahlstrom Corporation, light bulbs for Airam, and cutlery and silver objects for the Kultakeskus Company.Tapio Wirkkala’s works in plywood made him was one of the forerunners of Finnish modernism in sculpture.
Wirkkala is also remembered as an admirer and supporter of the Saami, an indigenous people residing in the northernmost part of Scandinavia. He actively campaigned for the establishment of a centre of Saami culture in Inari, which later became the Siida Saami Museum and North Lapland Nature Centre. These were competed in 1999, several years after Wirkkala’s death on May 19, 1985.
The two coins, which share identical designs, were created by Aimo Katajamäki and feature themes considered foundational to the artist’s work: craft and nature. The obverse features a wader and details of a wooden sculpture. The coin’s reverse depicts a stylized rendering of the artist’s hands in the act of sculpting, shaping, and finishing.
|€10||.500 silver||10 grams||28.5 mm.||Proof||10,000 pieces|
|€20||.925 silver||25.5 grams||38.6 mm.||Proof||5000 pieces|
Of the 10,000 pieces of €10 coins minted, one hundred of these silver coins will be numbered. The numbered silver coins will be mixed into the total mintage. Of the 5000 pieces of €20 coins minted, 100 coins will be numbered and sold separately packaged in a glass case. The collector coins will be available for advance order from the Mint of Finland online shop on August 18, 2015, with dispatches commencing on September 1, the date of issue. For more information on this and other coins available from the Mint of Finland, please visit their Web site. Information is offered in English & Finnish, with international orders dispatched where applicable.