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Marimekko Visit

August 24, 2015

Although technically part of my month at Arteles, I thought my visit to Marimekko's factory and headquarters in Helsinki deserved it's very own blog post as it was such an inspiring trip.

To be able to visit and see the workings of one of my favourite companies was a bit of a dream and totally fascinating to someone like me who works on such a small scale in comparison. I was kindly shown around by a lovely man called Petri (thank you!) who showed me their process from beginning to end.

We began the tour in his office - meeting his team, hearing about the history of the company and seeing how a pattern can begin as an A2 drawing/painting/sketch or collage which is then worked up by his department into a functioning repeat in a range of different colours. He had some amazing examples of designs to illustrate how they work including a huge collage of abstract stripes and blocks made entirely of tape by designer Teija Puranen . It was then scanned and transformed into a digital repeat for the fabric for this dress from their Autumn/Winter 14 collection (dress design by Mika Piirainen):

(Image courtesy of Marimekko)

(Image courtesy of Teija Puranen)

 We then began a tour around the factory, visiting different departments, including the room where silk and rotary screens are prepared using some of the best equipment I've ever seen. To expose and maintain all their screens is the full-time job of two people at Marimekko which is no surprise when you see how many screens they use.

One of my favourite rooms was the room of printed colour swatches. Drawers upon drawers of folded pieces of coloured fabric whose colour had been carefully mixed and sampled in-house. This is just a small selection of all the blues they have the recipe for:

The main factory floor is where all the printing action happens and was really impressive. Naturally, the principles of screen printing are the same as with a small scale producer like myself, but to see how things work on an industrial level was really exciting. 

(Image courtesy of Marimekko)

If screen printing is your thing too (or the wonderful Marimekko!) then you might like this video that has some footage of the printing in action:

(Video courtesy of Marimekko)

Once the material has been printed and processed there is a team of people whose job is quality control. This is all done by expert human eyes who watch as metres and metres of print move past them at a surprising speed, stopping the machine if they see something that is not flawless. Mistakes don't seem to be a common occurrence as it was explained to me that it's a matter of pride for the printers to maintain the highest print quality.

A visit to the factory would not be complete without a stop off in their factory shop at the end...

Huge thanks again to Petri and Marimekko for such an amazing experience!

*This residency was made possible with the generous financial support of Creative Scotland's Open Project Funding.


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