Finland has no shortage of stylish homeware companies. Iittala, Artek, Marimekko are all Finnish but Tonfisk, a relatively new company, has carved a niche out for itself with original, thoughtful design.
Tonfisk is the Swedish word for tuna fish. Tuna doesn’t conjure images of beautifully designed products but despite this the name seems to have clicked for its founders. These cups are from their Warm series — a tea & coffee set. Each glass features their logo as a sticker on its base. I would’ve preferred a more subtle approach but at least stickers are removeable.
Warm was created by industrial designer Brian Keaney, an Irish émigré producing great work out of Finland. An NCAD graduate he fell in love with Finland while on erasmus and later moved there to do a masters. It was a result of Keaney’s work while studying at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki that he created the Warm series and later co‑founded Tonfisk. They opperate under the maxim:
Form follows function doesn’t mean all objects have to look the same.
Tired of simply seeing iterations of the same products this philosophy shows through in their work. The Warm cup is made from white porcelain but the innovative aspect is its walnut sleeve. It creates the base of the cup while the wood acts as an insulator keeping your drink warm and your hands from burning. A clever alternative to the handle on a mug.
The sleeve is held to the cup through friction meaning the two parts are separate but easily removeable when you need to clean the cup. The slit in the walnut is functional but also provides a beauty and distinctive form. Something about wrapping your hands around warm wood feels more satisfying than a conventional mug.
Unfortunately, these cups were among some of the last produced by the Tonfisk factory in Turku before moving production to China. Its sad seeing a product very much linked to its home country outsource its manufacturing. This quote from Keaney seems to explain the thoughts behind the decision:
We design and produce a product to stand out against its competitors and then we try to sell it to as many people as possible at as good a price as possible.
I admire this approach but, I’d disagree that price is king. I’m willing to pay more for a product made in the EU. Tonfisk’s connection to Finland and their design heritage is a lot of where their value comes from but, they seem to have found a great small factory in China with a better quality porcelain.
These cups are my favourite for drinking coffee. Stylish with a Scandinavian feel and an Irish connection. They are perhaps on the small side for most coffee drinkers but, Tonfisk sell a variety of sizes. My friend Andrew even bought a set of their larger cups after admiring my own.