The exhibition is now on tour and currently residing in Comar arts centre in Tobermory on Mull until Friday 7th July. I was thrilled to be invited to host a screen printing workshop as part of the events programme running alongside the exhibition's new outing. So I headed over to Mull with Katy for a weekend of printing, Bollywood films and exploring the beauty of Mull...
India Street in it's new temporary home at Comar
The workshop gets under way with everyone designing their two colour India Street inspired sample print
First layers of colour get underway
The second layer is adding making some beautiful results like this one above
The final part of the day - a talk by Katy in the gallery
An unexpected treat - Cafe Fish!
Huge thanks to everyone that took part in our workshop, to Comar arts for having us along to take this workshop and to KAty for making it all happen! It was so much fun and a pleasure to work with such an enthusiastic bunch of printers! Catch the show before it ends on the 7th July or you'll have to head over to Mumbai or Ahmedabad in November 2017 to see it....
Friday 24th March
It was a long four hour drive to my next museum but it actually went by in a haze. I think my brain was whirring over all that I'd seen and experienced so far and thoughts were forming. I think a lot of my best thinking happens when I'm on the move…in the car, on a bus, riding my bike…maybe it's because it's somewhere no one can get me? I'm busy pedalling or steering or something which means my brain can think things over, it's just how it's always worked for me. I just need to make sure I grab a pen and paper as soon as I stop to catch the thoughts before they're gone.
So after four or so hours I arrive in Lappeenranta and drive to the fortress where the South Karelian museum is housed and Reija (who looks after the research and collections in the museum) is kindly waiting for me. I ended up being an hour late (google maps doesn't take into account my ice driving speed and there was plenty of ice on the tiny back roads) but she was completely understanding and met me with a huge smile and bags of enthusiasm and energy for all my questions. I must admit I was feeling overwhelmed by information at this point in my trip and a bit tired after a big drive, but Reija’s upbeat attitude was the perfect antidote to my fatigue. She was so delighted to have someone visit and request info on Täkänä, it was so encouraging. It turns out Rieja had curated a rare exhibition about Täkänä last year which was how I'd discovered the museum.
The poster for the Täkänä exhibition at Galleria Laura in 2016
Reija introduced me to another member of her team who unfortunately had to leave but they had dug out lots more Täkänä drawings and diagrams from a local weaving company...
More examples of täkänä designs and colour charts
However, the weaving company was no longer inaction, it sadly shut down in the mid 70s, but it turned out to be a huge coincidence that this weaving company that first began in the 30s was the reason I'd become interested in Täkänä all those months ago. The catalogues I found in the flea market in Hämeenkyrö whilst on my residency at Arteles were from Laura Korpikaivo-Tamminen’s weaving company which was established here in Lappeenranta. Reija had this amazing book all about Laura Korpikaivo-Tamminen and her life which she kindly gave to me and explained how she had been a really successful business woman for her whole life and also a strong character. There was something quite incredible hearing about the determination and work ethic of this woman who decided to start her own business in 1932 with the full support of her husband. It sounded quite progressive (and impressive) for a woman to start and run her own business back in that era but also that it was a success for seven decades.
Drawing to finished täkänä
Label details from Laura Korpikaivo-Tamminen's company
After my stop in Lappeenranta, it was a long drive back to Helsinki before my flight home. Despite my travels in Finland coming to an end, new things and connections were popping into my inbox all the time and it is amazing how this trip has sparked so many avenues of conversation, meetings and thoughts.
So now I'm back in my studio in Glasgow, trying to pull it all together and bring all that I've learnt into a new collection. It's taken a while to process but I think it's beginning to come together. A new collection is launching at designjunction in september and I'm collaborating with Floor_Story once more and an amazing Finnish weaver...I'll also be hosting two events in the Autumn to share the journey of this project with anyone that would like to know more, more details to follow...
Huge thanks to Creative Scotland for funding this project and to everyone that I've met and spoken with on the journey so far... x
If you ever find yourself heading towards the Russian border in the south-eastern corner of Finland, I encourage you to take a detour off the main road to this incredible (and I mean incredible) place called Pulsa. It was recommended to me by Elina earlier in the week (Elina and Petra, the owner of Pulsa are both textile designers and friends) and I had a last minute change of plan so thought I'd give them a call and I'm so glad I did.
Located about half an hour from Lappeenranta, Pulsan Asema is an old railway station built in 1869 that Petra and her family have lovingly restored over the past few years and turned into a perfect B&B, shop and cafe. It's perfectly located, perfectly restored, perfectly designed and perfectly curated....as you can tell I loved it and hopefully these photos will help explain why...
Tuesday 21st March
Today involved more travelling and learning...this time to a small village north-east of Jyväskylä called Hankasalmi. A chance introduction with a lovely textile designer called Anna-Kaisa whilst doing some solo exploring in Finland last summer led me to this exciting part of my trip. I'd been trying to find someone who still weaves täkänä through the other contacts I have but it was proving difficult. Täkänä is no longer a popular form of weaving in Finland and has disappeared significantly off the weaving landscape in the past thirty years. However, it turned out Anna-Kaisa's aunt Irma was part of a weaving community in Hankasalmi and the lady that teaches in this centre, Ritva Hänninen, kindly offered to give me a lesson in this complicated technique, but first I had to find the location. Under a new restaurant in the centre of the village (offering meat pie and 10 beers for 65 euros) was this discreet door...
the entrance to the community weaving centre in Hankasalmi
Behind the door was an amazing room packed full with looms all in use by various people from the local community with their individual projects on the go.
just some of the looms in the packed room (this was the one I was using on the left)
Ritva was an incredibly patient teacher. Täkänä is complicated, very complicated, especially when you're at home behind a print table and not a weaving loom (I studied graphic design not textiles incase you were wondering why this is so alien to me!). However, Ritva spent a couple of hours showing me the technique on a work in progress piece that Irma had kindly began in preparation of my visit.
Täkänä is literally translated as double cloth (I think I mentioned this before in my first post about my trip here) and uses a special technique where you pick up one colour of thread (using a pair of special wooden rods) whilst hiding the other colour of thread according to the pattern. Therefore you get the exact opposite (in terms of colour and pattern) on the reverse with a hollow space left in between. It is said to have been around for almost 1000 years and I read that it first appeared in Finland during the 1400 and 1500s in churches before beginning to appear in castles and upper-class homes from the 1500s onwards. They used to be fairly large in size and were often made to be used as quilts or wall-hangings to provide much needed warmth in cold, drafty spaces.
The täkänä I was working on was only about 15cm wide and maybe around 10cm so far in length with a very basic pattern, but it was enough for me!
the täkänä I was working on with Ritva's own plant-dyed wool
I had six pedals underneath the loom that my feet operated and different pedals were used for the different colours - 1 & 2 were in use for the light green threads and 3 & 4 for the dark green threads. I also had two big wooden double weaving rods to separate the threads, plus the weaving shuttle (shown in the photo above) to pass through the threads on every row.
Ritva demonstrating the technique
preparing to insert one of the rods for the next row - with Ritva's non-stop guidance!
It's a demanding technique but I can imagine once mastered, also very relaxing. There's something so nice about the pace and rhythm of weaving that almost feels a bit meditative...
Wednesday 22nd March
my desk for the day at the Craft Museum's archives
Today I was back at the Craft Museum of Finland in Jyväskyla, this time in their archives at the main museum in Jyväskylä town centre. The staff had kindly pulled out their collection of original Täkänä designs and drawings which all seemed to be from the more modern Täkänäs - modern Täkänäs seem to be classified as any dating from 1900 onwards, but these were all from around the 1950s/60s. They were all kept in brown paper or boxes and of course had to be handled with gloves like the Täkänäs themselves on Monday.
'Saatto' / 'procession' drawing in black ink
I was surprised how small in size some of the original designs were, maybe only A5? It seemed like some of them were done very quickly, instinctively, a small sketch coloured in and you could sometimes vaguely see a pencil grid drawn in the background. Many were drawn in black and white too, with colour only added later.
One of Maija Kolsi-Mäkëlä's original drawings - 'Kenno' / 'Cell'
It was fascinating to see these sketches then translated onto graph paper and scaled up to create workable instructions for whoever was going to weave the cloth. Many had written notes on the bottom and that beautiful ‘Täkänä ‘ handwriting always caught my eye. It was as though everyone tried to write it in the same block style.
'Viisaat Kanat' / 'Wise Hens'
I loved the small samples of wool that were punched onto the side of many of the designs, referring to the correct colours that should be used when weaving up the piece. It reminded me of how I like to figure out my colours for a collection, carefully mixing and playing around with different ideas physically rather on the computer screen. I think mixing colours and figuring out the correct combination for a design is one of my favourite things. It really excites me how colours interact with each other and different pairings of colours can completely change how we see a colour.
Another one of Maija Kolsi-Mäkëlä's original sketches with wool from 1966-67
It was great to see so many of Maija Kolsi-Mäkëla’s drawings and graph sketches in the flesh. It was her work that first caught my eye in the Täkänä catalogue I found whilst on residency at Arteles during 2015. The craft museum had a huge collection of her work and some of Maija-Lisa Forss-Heinonen’s whose work I was first introduced to last Friday in the archives at the Design Museum in Helsinki.
After a full day in the archives gathering photos, information and notes , I was heading to my friend Anna-Kaisa's for the night. Anna-Kaisa lives back in Hankasalmi, not in the village though, about a further 20 minutes away in the middle of a forest with her family and animals. That night was my introduction to a Finnish mode of transport called Potkukelkkaan.
my 'potkukelkkaan' for the evening
Potkukelkkaan is literally translated as ‘kick sledge’ and that's exactly what it is. A small seat, a set of handle bars and two metal bars that glide across the ice as you kick your way along. We headed from the house down to the nearby lake, but some of the ice/snow was starting to melt so part of the path was more mud, but it was still amazing fun and when we got to the lake the reward was incredible! The sun was just setting over the trees on the other side of the lake and we sledged out onto the icy lake to get a better look. I can't explain how magical it feels standing in the icy cold watching the sun go down on a frozen lake. My vocabulary doesn't seem to do it justice, but standing there in silence, listening to the wind and feeling like you're really on a date with nature is just overwhelming. It's part of the reason I love Finland so much, the connection to nature feels so much stronger than anywhere else I've experienced and people seem to work with it, respecting the cold and embracing it as a time of year to slow down, stay inside and really take full advantage of the hours that the sun is up for.
sunset at the lake
More to follow...
* This project has been kindly supported by Creative Scotland's Open Project Funding.
Saturday 18th March
Today was a day on the move…leaving Helsinki for Tampere but first a Finnish friend of mine had put me in touch with a Helsinki based designer called Elina Helenius. Elina seemed really interested in my project in her emails and had suggested we meet at a café in the centre of Helsinki called Cafe Aschen Jugend. Sadly this was shut (Elina wanted me to see the architecture) so we went to the nearby Kappeli – a beautiful building on the Esplanade that first opened it’s doors as a café in 1867. Elina was an inspiration to meet. Her career spans several decades and has also crossed over from print to weave. She’s worked with many companies I admire and has a warmth and openness that was wonderful to be around.
Monday 20th March
After further travelling yesterday, I woke up to fresh snowfall in the town of Jyväskylä which lies about 170 miles north of Helsinki. It was very cold. Today was another day inside though, this time at the Conservation Centre of the Finnish Craft Museum. I'd first contacted Anne - their lead conservationist - early last summer when I was pulling together some initial thoughts about this project and found out they had a large archive with many Täkänäs.
So I am just back (well it's been a week now) from an incredible trip to Finland supported by a Creative Scotland Open Project Funding Grant to research and learn about the Finnish form of weaving known as Täkänä to inspire some new work and new thinking. The trip was an intense ten days of reading, talking, learning, travelling, listening and absorbing information and experiences to develop new things. An introduction to this project can be found here but the purpose of this series of blog posts I'm starting is to give a little more insight into my trip and the project I'm working on, so whilst I was away I kept a diary of my daily findings which I'm going to share over the next few weeks...
Flying over a few of the approx 60,000 lakes Finland has
Thursday 16th March
I arrived in Helsinki in the early evening to a beautiful chilly wintery scene. There were amazingly clear blue skies and a low sun to welcome me back to this great city. Helsinki was always on my 'wish-list' of cities to visit because of my deep love and respect for Marimekko, but having now been fortunate to visit several times over the past few years (this project has been brewing away in my mind for a while!), I feel like this is definitely one of my favourite cities not just because of the great design and designers you can find here (arabia, iittlala, Tove Jansson) but it's so easy to travel around and has always felt so welcoming to me.
Helsinki's historic old part of town
Piles of snow were still heaped on the pavements at various intervals when I arrived this time, but it was hard to imagine it snowing that evening. I stayed in the historic old town for the first time which on first impressions seemed incredibly quiet and of course, so clean. Everywhere always seems clean in Finland. The apartment I stayed in (just a find on air bnb) felt very Scandinavian - a mainly white interior with simple accessories and a minimal feel. It was actually a really impressive use of a small space...
Friday 17th March
I woke up to the sound of hard rain on the window, which felt very 'Glasgow'. Luckily I knew I was going to be inside most of the day in the Design Museum’s archives looking at slides, images and texts with the very generous help of Johanna Kiuru, their archivist.
Inside the archive room at the Design Museum
The Design Museum's archive space is located on the top floor of the museum and Johanna has an incredible space full of drawers, cabinets, papers, lightboxes and more - I can't tell you how much I love archives. I was shown first of all to the slide cabinet – a beautiful device that opens up and allows you to pull out displays of slides in front of a back light. I started looking through and pulling out any täkänäs I could see.
* I should probably add (incase you haven't read the earlier blog post) Täkänä literally translates as double-cloth. I'll explain more about the process in a later post, but it is a particular tricky weaving technique that generally uses two colours and due to the technique the negative image is shown on the reverse, so if the front had blue dots in a white frame, the other side would have white dots in a blue frame. As I am not a weaver, my explanations may seem very basic, but I'll do my best!
An example of one of Pirkko Hammarberg's Täkänäs
There must have been many hundreds of slides in the cabinet, all in alphabetical order but I quickly realised that there was one designer that kept catching my eye – Pirkko Hammarberg. She has a really appealing graphic style, a simple elegance to all her designs that I love. I started to notice the same designers names appearing and a familiarity was beginning with the works of Dora Jung, Laila Karrttunen, Maija Kolsi-Mäkelä*, Maija Lavonen and Maija-Liisa Forss-Heinonen.
(*Maija Kolsi-Mäkelä's work was already slightly familiar to me as it was her work that first caught my eye in the catalogues I found at the flea market whilst on my Finnish residency at Arteles in 2015 and subsequently planted the seed for this project)
One of the old Täkänä catalogues held by the archive
There were a few täkänä catalogues that Johanna had found in their archives that were interesting to look at too and I was beginning to piece together a bit of the history of täkänä. It seemed that a couple of larger companies used to produce täkänäs in the 60s and 70s and they had catalogues that customers could choose a design from. Some Täkänäs I saw on this trip date back from the 1850's but the one's I was mainly looking at in this archive were the more modern ones from the 60s and 70s.
One of Maija-Liisa Forss-Heinonen's täkänäs photographed in the archive
Once I was done with the slides, I moved onto looking through the digital archive on the computer and then through the filing cabinet drawers. Each designer had a folder with many (mainly) black and white photos in. There’s something about old photos that I love and seeing all these folders grabbed my attention for quite some time. It was really nice to actually sit and look through bigger, photos of things I’d been looking at on small slides or seeing pictures of the designers themselves. I particularly loved this portrait of Pirkko Hammarberg sat in front of what I'm told is maybe her most well-know print design...
Apple print for Finlayson, 1973 - she has also drawn dotted apples on her cheeks!
I realised at about 3pm that five hours had passed by and I was pretty exhausted, so after saying my goodbyes and thank yous to Johanna I headed out in to the rain for a wander around the streets of Helsinki. There was a shop I’d read about called Common that is run by a lovely Japanese couple so headed straight there as it was nearby. Being a huge stationery lover I wasn’t disappointed with their wares and had a really nice chat with one of the owners. It turns out they’d lived in Helsinki for 12 years selling carefully curated Japanese goods. I couldn't resist buying this Postalco notebook...
More to follow soon...
** this project has been made possible by the generous support of Creative Scotland
I was totally delighted and grateful to hear last week that Creative Scotland have chosen to fund this exciting new project I have proposed in their latest round of Open Project Funding. This will involve me travelling back to Finland very soon to research, develop and produce a series of rugs, prints and wall hangings inspired by the Finnish form of weaving called Täkänä.
I first discovered Täkänä whilst on residency at Arteles Creative Centre in Finland during the summer of 2015 (you can read my blog posts from this residency starting here). I found a couple of old catalogues in a charity shop (see image above) and was instantly drawn to the graphics of some of the weavings and use of only two colours - something that I use a lot in my own design work.
So, I'll be undertaking a self-initiated residency in multiple locations to explore the history of Täkänä, through its archives and to learn from experts and creative practitioners in this field. The subsequent work will be launched in September 2017 as part of an interiors collection, at design junction at the London Design Festival and closely followed by subsequent events in Scotland.
I'm excited to share that this project will see me teaming up with the brilliant Floor_Story once more to create the new rugs (you can see or buy our existing rug collaboration with Floor_Story here picture below).
Please stay tuned to this blog where I'll be sharing some of my journey, experiences and findings very soon...
It was a incredibly flattering to be selected as one of '2017's biggest new design talents' by The Guardian a couple of weeks ago. Our shared love of colour has drawn the four of us together for this piece and it is an honour to be selected next to Yinka Ilori, Bethan Laura Wood and Raw Edges. Thanks also to Murdo Macleod for popping along to our studio to capture this photo:
To read the full article on The Guardian's website, please click here.
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Read more about Just a Card and find out plenty more reasons it's good to shop local and support small businesses!