Finnish designer Lisa Johansson-Pape enjoyed a long and varied career in lighting, furniture, textile, and ceramic design. She was one of Finland’s leading lighting designers in the 20th century and was instrumental in promoting Finnish design internationally.
Born in 1907, Lisa Johansson-Pape studied at the Industrial Art Institute in Helsinki University of Art & Design (Now Aalto University of Art & Design), graduating in 1928. She worked as a furniture designer for Kylmäkoski and Stockmann and created carpets for the Friends of Finnish Handicraft, before turning her attention to lighting design. She collaborating with the Stockmann-owned lighting factory Orno from 1942, famously remarking, “it was quite by accident that I became a design light artist. By education, I am a furniture designer, but I had to make lamps during the war.”
Notable designs include the Lisa (1947), Sipuli (1954), and Laura (1957) pendant lamps. The Sipuli, often referred to by the English translation Onion, resembles the form of the vegetable for which it was named. The angular design in opaline glass was awarded a gold medal at the Triennale di Milano in 1954, which was just one of several prizes Johansson-Pape received in her career; she was also awarded a silver medal at the 1951 Triennale di Milano and the Pro-Finlandia prize in 1957. In the 1950s she developed an interest in ceramics and glass, collaborating with historic Finnish glass factory Iittala.
In addition to the famous Milan Triennial exhibitions, Johansson-Pape represented Finland in venues around the world. She provided the lighting fixtures for the Finnish display at the New York World Fair in 1939 and the Design in Scandinavia exhibition that traveled to multiple museums in the US in the mid-1950s. She also organised a Rya textile exhibition, which debuted in Helsinki in 1956 before it toured the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe. In 1960, her solo exhibition Light—Glass—Metal opened in Helsinki, followed in 1966 by a joint exhibition with friend and textile artist Dora Jung in Stockholm.
Johansson-Pape was an active member of several national design organisations, including the Friends of Finnish Handicraft, which she joined in 1933 and chaired as Artistic Director from 1951 to 1985. Her commemorative Dora Jung exhibition toured many cities after it opened in Helsinki in 1983. She lectured and wrote extensively on the subject of lighting design, promoting Scandinavian modernist principles; “a good light fixture must be simple, and its structure and function must be both neat and correct,” she wrote.