Design work on the Suomi dinnerware collection took five years. For a large part of this time, Sarpaneva lived in Selb, Bavaria, which was the site of the Rosenthal porcelain factory. The design of the collection, oversight of plaster mould production and joining of steel handles to porcelain were all a challenge for Sarpaneva – the very kind he relished. He worked on each item one at a time. Every single detail was honed to the umpteenth degree. No compromises were made. Plaster models were produced by two model masters – only one was approved by Sarpaneva. “Herbert Schäller has the right design sense – we see things the same way”, said Sarpaneva upon his appraisal of the models. Joining a steel handle to the porcelain proved to be a technical challenge. Philip Rosenthal, who supervised product design at his factory, refused to give up: “We have to solve this problem!” Tests were conducted and the results were shelved. Finally, a solution was found that satisfied everyone. The shiny, bright flat of steel combined with the very best white porcelain and timeless form of the Suomi collection resulted in something entirely new and unprecedented.
In 1976, ten Suomi exhibitions were held in Germany. The next year, the collection was exhibited in, for example, Amsterdam, Brussels, the Hague, Geneva, Gotheburg, London, Luxembourg, Copenhagen, Malmö, Oslo, Milano, Paris and Rome.
Held in Finland in the spring of 1978, the Suomi collection exhibition sparked a great deal of debate and discussion. The various phases of the manufacturing process, sketches of the moulds and finished pieces were presented at the exhibition. “People asked me ‘Why are you showing such mundane “household items” in the crypt of the Helsinki Cathedral – such a sacred place?’ I told them it’s because work is scared to me.”
In 1976, the Suomi collection was awarded the Gold Medal of the President of Italy in Faenza, which is the highest award in the world of porcelain and ceramics. It is known in the trade as the “Nobel prize of ceramics”.