A family portrait from early 20th century.Atelier Torbjörn Tillander celebrates its 60th anniversary this autumn, but the roots of the company go back another hundred years, to St. Petersburg of the 1860s. A young Finnish boy, Alexander E. Tillanderarrived to the town with the intention of training as a goldsmith. The determined 11-year-old boy worked hard, studied Russian on Sundays, and little by little advanced in his career, finally reaching the elite status and starting to make jewellery for prestigious customers, including members of the Tsar's family. In 1917, the Russian Revolution drove the family back to Finland.
This old family portrait shows three generations of Tillanders photographed in early 20th century. Alexander E. Tillander sits in the middle of the photograph with his son, Alexander T. Tillander, standing behind him. The little boy in a sailor suit, sitting on the table, is Leo Tillander, Torbjörn Tillander's father.
A free spirit since 1956. Torbjörn Tillander established his own atelier at 29 years of age, to give free rein to his own personality and artistic expression as a jewellery designer. Torbjörn borrowed the grand sum of a hundred Finnish marks from ten friends, ten from each. This capital allowed him to set up on his own, leaving the family company where he had advanced to the position of a partner and goldsmith supervisor.
Atelier Torbjörn Tillander's first ten years were the most difficult ones; Torbjörn was not able to take even a day off for an entire decade. He gave the company his all, to bring it up to full speed. However, Torbjörn did not have to do all this alone as in 1962 he met his wife-to-be Paula Laine and they soon started a family.
Torbjörn Tillander's creative style started to emerge during the first years of running his own atelier. “TT” was quite a character, but his jewellery did not reflect only his views as he always wanted to meet his customer personally and design the piece of jewellery just for him or her.
In his younger days, Torbjörn Tillander designed jewellery for the Finnish brand Kalevala Koru. His style was distinctive and recognisable. After opening his own atelier, he introduced novelties such as colourful gemstones and particular, top-quality pearls. Diamonds were traditionally used in fine jewellery, but Atelier Torbjörn Tillander combined gems and colours with a bold and open-minded approach.
A made-to-order creation from 1980. We will tell more about Torbjörn Tillander's original designs in a separate story later on.
The family grew, and so did the family company. Torbjörn Tillander and Paula Laine were married in 1965. They welcomed their first daughter, Annette, in 1965, and the second one, Tina, in 1968. The Tillanders worked hard both in the city and at home, on the island of Villinki, where they lived year-around until the end of the 1960s. The family spent a lot of time together at work and elsewhere.
Look at the photograph above: Torbjörn leaving the island for work in Helsinki, wearing a suit and probably accompanied by his dogs who used to go to work with their master.
Then imagine how Paula Tillander, a mother of two little girls, stands over the stove in a slightly drafty wooden villa on the island, watching a huge poster representing the most important gemstones and their properties. While looking after her children, Paula studied to become a gemmologist, going on to work as a gemstone expert at the family company for decades.
Now, also imagine a scene from 1968: little Tina Tillander plays in the backroom of the shop at Tehtaankatu street in Helsinki. Her father had given his lively little girl a box of brightly-coloured broken gemstones to play with, to stop her from disrupting the work of customer service staff in the shop.
What will become of a little girl who has gemstones as toys?
Tillanders up to the fifth and sixth generation. In the 1980s, Tina Tillander reached the age of 16 years and was not the least bit interested in continuing her studies to college. The family ended up sending her to Germany to study gemstones, without her knowing any German at all. As fortune often favours the brave, Tina soon learnt German and finished her Masters in gemmology at an exceptionally young age. The next stage took her to Japan to study pearls, after which she gained the qualification of goldsmith taught by her father.
As Atelier Torbjörn Tillander reaches the 60-year mark, Tina manages the company and designs jewellery. She shares Torbjörn's love of colourful gemstones, stunning pearls, and bold design, always keeping the customer as the main source of inspiration. The company has now been joined by Tina's younger daughter Jenny, representing the sixth generation of Tillanders working with jewellery. She is now 22 years old and has just been accepted to study gemmology at GIA, the Gemological Institute of America in London. She is starting in October 2016, and you can follow her studies on Atelier Torbjörn Tillander's Instagram account.
We are celebrating our 60th anniversary with the focus on work, by opening a new workshop at Pohjoisesplanadi street in Helsinki. Because we want to show our customers how we work, our workshop 2.0 will also include a showroom area. If you want to hear more about what we are doing and planning, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.