Artek reworks Alvar Aalto classics with Japanese designers

Finnish furniture brand Artek used Milan Design Week to showcase a new collection that celebrates the centennial of diplomatic relations between Finland and Japan.

The FIN/JPN Friendship Collection uses design to mark 100 years of relations, bringing together designers from both countries to reinterpret classic pieces and create new ones that bring the two design cultures together.

Part of the range takes classic Artek designs by architect Alvar Aalto and gives them a colourful, new treatment. Designer Jo Nagasaka has given the wooden bench, stool and tea trolley designs a colourful grain, in a collection called ColoRing, available in May. The process takes inspiration from traditional Japanese techniques of brushing wood and applying, then removing, layers of lacquer, called Udukuri and Tsugaru-nuri. The three colourways - neon green and yellow, pink and purple, and a turquoise and orange option - offer a striking new finish while retaining classic shapes, with the bench and stools likely to be as at home in a kitchen as they are in a playfully-styled meeting room.

A second take on the Aalto stool comes from Buaisou, an indigo dye specialist from Japan. The Stool takes on a deep indigo hue thanks to the traditional techniques used, with the object dipped into a bath of the plant-based dye, which colours the entire piece while allowing the wood grain to show through.

Additional parts of the collection available in May include a selection of quirky vases, designed for Finnish traditions with a Japanese-inspired feel. Finnish-Korean design firm Company has created four vases and two candleholders, the latter designed for the Finnish event of Lucia, when girls and women dress up as the Saint Lucia and bring light to the dark months of winter.