Saara Hopea

Saara Hopea-Untracht was born August 26th, 1925 in Porvoo, Finland. She is best known as a glass and jewelry designer, but originally started as a furniture and lamp designer. Her father owned a well known gold and jewelry store, Ossian Hopea, in Porvoo, that still exists today. Saara Hopea passed away in 1984.

The war years made life difficult and slowed her studies at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, but upon graduating, Saara Hopea found employment as a furniture designer with the Majander factory in Helsinki. The designer Paavo Tynell, owner of the Taito company, also taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, employing talented students as trainees in his office. In 1948, Saara Hopea began work in Tynell’s office, and since she was highly skilled in draughtsmanship, she was given the task of preparing the model drawings of lamps designed by Tynell.

In 1951, Kaj Franck, who had also taught Saara Hopea at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, asked her to assist him in designing the Wärtsilä-Arabia corporation’s first showroom in Helsinki. She also designed furniture for the showroom. On many occasions, Saara Hopea was also responsible for the exhibition design in the showroom.

Saara got into glass design in the early 1950s and in 1952 was accepted to work at Nuutajärvi Glass Factory, where Kaj Franck was the artistic director. The Wärtsilä corporation had bought the glassworks in 1950, and Kaj Franck had become the works’ artistic director in the following year. He wanted Saara to come to Nuutajärvi as a glass designer and to collaborate with him in renewing the factory’s product line. They both wanted to create ”everyday objects of more beauty” for all consumers. Saara Hopea designed both manufactured products and one-off items of art glass for Nuutajärvi.

The best-known mass-produced object was a bright colored stackable tumbler (#1718), and matching pourer. Her full range of products included tumblers, vases, pourers, candlesticks, cigarette cases for tables, plates and carafes.

Of the one-off and serially produced art glass items, the most famous is probably the Bubble (Kupla) vase that features a colored bubble in the clear glass of the base.  Two of her glass designs received silver prizes at the Milan triennials: stackable tumbler 1718 in 1954 and the ”Flamingo” liqueur glass in 1957.

In 1959 she had to take over the family business when her father passed away, and acted as the artistic director and jewelry designer for the business 1959-1960 and again from 1967.

In 1960, she moved to New York and got married to American Oppi Untracht and started using Saara Hopea-Untracht to sign her work.  In New York she studied and developed enameling techniques. Following her husband, she later moved to Nepal (1963-65) and India (1965-1966), until in 1967 they settled back in her hometown of Porvoo, Finland.

Saara Hopea was awarded silver medals in Milano triennial in 1954 and 1957.