25 years of Moomin mugs – ceramic illustrator Tove Slotte

Tove Slotte (b. 1957) has illustrated Arabia’s Moomin products since the early 90s based on the original drawings by Tove Jansson. Before that Slotte worked at Arabia as a product and decoration designer. When the new product manager got the idea of Moomins dishes, he knew exactly that a devoted Moomin fan, Tove Slotte would be perfect for that job. In autumn 1989, Slotte started to transfer the original drawings by Tove Jansson into Arabia’s porcelain items.

Already in summer of 1990, Tove Slotte went to present the first ready-made Moomin dishes to Tove Jansson and her companion Tuulikki Pietilä. The first set consisted of wall plates, mugs, and a children’s set. Jansson wished for a little colour change only for one plate, otherwise, she approved the products into production. The first Moomin collection included also the figurines designed by Tuulikki Pietilä.

The first Moomin mugs designed by Tove Slotte.

At the beginning of her career as a designer of Moomin products, Slotte was very careful about how much she could change Tove Jansson’s original illustrations and customize them to fit into dishes. Usually, she has to complete the original drawings that are limited by cartoon frames and add the measurements to suit mugs, plates, and bowls.

At some point, Arabia stated that the mugs will soon begin to look too much like each other and at the end of the 90th century came the idea of mugs where one character is presented from the front and back with a strong background colour. In the early 2000s also came bowls and two-sided plates into production and in 2006 the first seasonal summer and winter mugs were included in Arabia’s Moomin selection.


Test versions of the first summer mug The Dive

All the motives of Arabia’s Moomin mugs and other products are from Tove Jansson’s original artworks. Slotte has been browsing the books over and over again for 25 years now and knows them almost by heart. Still, she always finds something new and inspiring that she wants to try to adapt to ceramics. Jansson’s original comics and other books are an enormous source so the popularity of the Moomins may continue for a very very long time before the motives run out.

Requests of the characters and decorations on mugs and other products Slotte receives from Arabia’s product manager and from her friends. Slotte follows also the discussion on social media where she gets important feedback from Moomin fans.

“Because the ideas go so much back and forth between me and the product manager, in the end, it is not always so easy to say when or from whom the idea has came, it’s always about the co-operation”, Slotte says.

Usually, the designs are ready for 1,5 – 2 years before the actual products are in stores. Currently, the ceramic products for the year 2016 are now designed and approved by Moomin Characters and the designing of the products for 2017 is underway.

Tove Slotte’s desk presented at the exhibition Mugs with a story to tell – Moomins