Ultima Thule

First, let’s answer a frequently asked question: How do you pronounce the name of the Finnish glassware that looks like it is melting?

We’ll skip the International Phonetic Alphabet and go straight to the wonders of the Internet: How to pronounce Ultima Thule.

Ultima Thule is Latin for “the furthest point north.” It implies being on the furthest edge of civilization. It’s also used to describe an almost-impossible goal.  Both definitions fit this particular design.  Designer Tapio Wirkkala (pictured above) was inspired by the beauty of the melting ice during a visit to Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland. Once back in his studio, Wirkkala began the exacting work of creating a glass that reflected the image he had in his mind.

To achieve the desired look, Wirkkala combined using a graphite mold and glass blowing. Using a graphite mold is an ancient technique (see video below).

However, the intricacy of the Ultima Thule pattern required thousands of hours of experimenting and testing to develop a glass-blowing technique that showed the detail and texture.

ultima thule red wine glass
Ultima Thule red wine glass

Few companies would support a designer spending time and resources in that way. But ittala’s values are unique and their mission statement is uncompromising: “We believe that objects should be distinctive, combinable, and multi-functional, with lasting design that inspires individual use and expression…We believe in timeless design that will never be thrown away.”

If something is never to be thrown away, it’s worth taking the time to do right. That was the investment iittala was willing to make and the vision Wirkkala was committed to making reality. The perseverance paid off.  Ultima Thule is still one of iittala’s best selling patterns, forty-seven years after it was introduced.

A success like that deserves a toast, and here is a recipe that will make that toast truly delicious: