The Saari pattern by Aoi Yoshizawa conveys a serene archipelago atmosphere

Aoi Yoshizawa designed the gradient Saari pattern for Lapuan Kankurit. Interviewed by Design Stories, Yoshizawa talks about the stages of the design process and the magical views from the Harakka island in Helsinki.

Lapuan Kankurit Saari giant towel
The Saari towels from Lapuan Kankurit were designed by Aoi Yoshizawa.

AOI YOSHIZAWA is a Japanese designer and artist living in Helsinki, Finland, whose handprint can be admired, among others, in several textiles by Lapuan Kankurit. Her most recent creation for the brand is the atmospheric Saari pattern that features beautifully gradient shades inspired by seascapes and the morning sun gleaming on the horizon.

Aoi Yoshizawa
Yoshizawa hails from Japan but currently lives in Helsinki. Her studio is located on Harakka island in the Helsinki archipelago.

Hi Aoi! Could you first tell us a bit about your background?
“I grew up in Tokyo, Japan, but moved to Sweden in 2006 to study art and design. I thought I would stay for only one year but have lived in Nordic countries since then. After Sweden, I moved to Bergen, Norway, where I studied textile art and took a BFA degree. I then moved to Helsinki to study at Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture.

While studying at Aalto, I started my freelance work mostly collaborating with the Swedish textile company Svensson but also with Lapuan Kankurit – my first designs were the Aino blanket and the Timantti towels. Lately, I have been also working as a visual artist on my own art projects, hand-weaving contemporary textile artworks in my studio on the Harakka island in Helsinki.”

Aoi Yoshizawa
Introduced in the spring of 2021, Saari evokes images of the sea and the archipelago. The idea for the pattern came, indeed, from Yoshizawa looking at the sea.
Lapuan Kankurit Sade giant towel
The delicate yet also graphic Sade pattern was inspired by raindrops. Sade is Finnish and translates to "rain".
Aoi Yoshizawa
Alongside her design work, Yoshizawa also does weaving and textile art.

Where did you get the idea for the latest pattern, Saari?
“The idea for the Saari design came from the seascapes I saw last spring, in the early mornings. I remember looking at the horizon from the Harakka island or when rowing the boat when we were heading there. The light was so beautiful, and the colors of the sky and the sea were very strong. I wanted to translate that experience and that peaceful atmosphere into textiles.

“The idea for the Saari design came from the seascapes I saw last spring, in the early mornings.”

I am fascinated by the lights and colors of seascapes – the feeling and ambiance are hard to describe in words. When you see the sunset and sunrise, and the dreamlike light in the fog… It is so magical.”

Aoi Yoshizawa
The beautifully gradient shade of the Saari pattern is inspired by coastal fog and the sun rising on the horizon.
Lapuan Kankurit Saari hand towel
The Saari textiles are woven at the Lapuan Kankurit weaving mill in Lapua, Finland.

What was the design process like?
“I started by dipping small pieces of paper in colored water before painting the sketches on a larger scale, adding different shades and textures to achieve the gradient effect. The gradient was challenging in the beginning, but I continued to paint it again and again.

I love to put myself into one technique – I like to paint simple shapes and elements like gradients or brush strokes. It is so meditative to repeat the same strokes again and again. And the more I paint, the better I can put my whole mind into it.”

Aoi Yoshizawa
Yoshizawa has created several patterns for Lapuan Kankurit over the years. During that time, she has developed a warm friendship with the owners of the company, Jaana and Esko Hjelt.
Lapuan Kankurit Saari giant towel
Aoi Yoshizawa developed the Saari pattern by painting different shades and textures on top of each other so that they form a lovely gradient effect.
Aoi Yoshizawa
Nature and its phenomena are a recurring theme in Yoshizawa’s patterns, and she is often inspired by elements of her everyday environments, such as a view of the sea from a boat or the Harakka island.

Besides the sea and natural light, what else inspires you?
“The Finnish seasons inspire me very much. I love to see the changes in nature – the sea, woods, sky, wind, and light. For example, February this year was so beautiful with lots of snow. I got so inspired by the views I saw while skiing in the woods or skating on the frozen sea.

“The Finnish seasons inspire me very much. I love to see the changes in nature.”

Moreover, I am very into weaving, especially hand weaving on a traditional loom. My favorite designer in this field is Hella Jongerius. I admire her perspective on weaving techniques and what she has done with the theme of weaving. Recently, I have been reading texts by Bauhaus weaver Anni Albers who I also admire very much.”

Aoi Yoshizawa
Yoshizawa has lived in the Nordic countries for 15 years.

What can we expect in the future? Anything interesting coming up that you can already share?
“I will be participating in some exhibitions in Helsinki, such as a group exhibition on the Harakka island with the Harakka Artists’ Association. I will present my woven artwork, and with my colleague Petra Vehviläinen, we will create a weaving installation on the island. It will be a very exciting event for everyone to visit during a beautiful summer day!”

See also:

More designs by Aoi Yoshizawa >
All products by Lapuan Kankurit >

Text: Emmi Ratilainen Images: Lotta Djupsund

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