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.
We are pleased to support the wonderful 'Just a Card' campaign!
The Just a Card campaign aims to encourage people to buy from Designer/Makers and Independent Galleries and Shops by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even 'just a card' are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses.
Read more about Just a Card and find out plenty more reasons it's good to shop local and support small businesses!
Our Friendly prints project was born out of an invitation from artists Laura Aldridge and Anna Mayer to create an offering for their Openaries project during Glasgow International 2014. Together they built a portable ceramics kiln and invited local artists and practitioners to make ceramic offerings for one of their three firings. We 'offered' to create a protective apron for them to wear (more can be read about this on our blog) which led to our first print design in the series called 'Laura A' which can be seen in the image below (and yes it got picked out by Vogue as a top product at designjunction in 2015 - thank you Vogue!):
We decided to make tea towels and kitchenware products out of this idea of 'Friendly' prints as the kitchen always feels like the hub of a home. It's the place where conversations, meals, laughter and sometimes tears happen - of both joy and despair! These moments shared with our friends so often seem to happen in each others kitchens, that it seemed right that we created the designs into kitchen products. Plus who doesn't love a splash of colour and pattern in their kitchen?
We started out with Laura A, ventured on next to a Dave then Von design and for 2016 introduced Ida and Naomi. Each of these designs is inspired in some way by the person it is named after, people who've made us smile, we've shared unforgettable times with or are maybe just an inspiration to us. Their personality has stayed with us, maybe this all sounds a bit much, but people, the communities we create and surround ourselves in are maybe the most important thing. So this is a small celebration of some of the great people we get to share things with...
IDA - has a smile that warms any heart and means it when she says 'it's all good'. Ida works as an assistant at Arteles Creative Centre in Finland and I met her whilst on a residency there last summer. Never annoyed by residents continual questions, she really does bring a smile to everyone's face with her generous nature.
This design is based on an abstracted smile....pushed into our graphic sensibility with colours that remind me of Ida and Finland. The blue skies, green grass...often we were outside - picking berries, eating or making bonfires.
Next is Naomi...
NAOMI - has a magical love of rocks, nature, colour and the universe. Naomi is a painter who lives and works in Australia and is an inspiration. I also met Naomi at Arteles (and many other lovely people I should say!). This is an example of some of her work which inspired our tea towel design...
(Image courtesy of Naomi Bishop)
(Image courtesy of Naomi Bishop)
Naomi's bold use of colour and love of mystical things inspired the rhythm and palette for our design.
We hate to bring it up.... but Christmas is fast approaching! So, to make things a little easier for you, here's our last order dates to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas.
We're delighted to be back at the annual Scotland Re:Designed Showcase. This year, interiors and fashion are celebrating together in a joint showcase at Glasgow's St.Enoch Centre in the city centre. For five days, there will be a host of talks and events with the opportunity for you to shop from all the designers taking part on Saturday and Sunday in the pop-up shop!
We'll be showing our exciting new interiors collection during the showcase, plus our special rug collaboration called 'Lehariya' with the fabulous Floor_Story! 'Lehariya' was a design we developed as part of the India Street project, inspired by this traditional tie-dye technique of India.
Opening times during the five days are as follows:
Showroom & Exhibition:
Wednesday 9th: 9am – 7pm
Thursday 10th: 9am – 3pm (Closed for Private View from 6.30pm-11pm)
Friday 11th November: 9am – 6pm
Saturday 12th November: 9 – 6pm
Sunday 13th November: 10 – 6pm