The new spring line of the Finnish brand Lapuan Kankurit features a cheerful flower pattern called Tulppaani, designed by a young Finnish talent, Helmi Liikanen. We chatted with the textile designer about her collaboration with the family-owned company as well as the inspiration behind the playful design.
HELMI LIIKANEN is a Finnish textile designer known to many Finns for the fabric she designed for an evening gown worn by the Finnish first lady, Jenni Haukio, at the annual Independence Day Gala in 2018. Now, the young designer and Aalto University graduate has got together with the Finnish brand Lapuan Kankurit, known for their high-quality home textiles, and created a fun, playful pattern called Tulppaani, Finnish for “tulip”. Created by combining different weaving techniques, the pattern evokes images of the colorful tulip fields of the Netherlands.
Hi Helmi! Could you first tell us a bit about your background – what made you want to become a textile designer?
“My mother is a textile and visual artist, so I’ve grown among art, colors, and materials. After high school, I wanted to study a creative field. Textile design felt like a natural choice for me; without color and warmth, life is very boring. Textile design carries a soft power, and to me, it is a way to bring these elements to our surroundings.”
How did you end up collaborating with Lapuan Kankurit?
“Our collaboration began from a field trip to their weaving mill, organized by Aalto University. At the time, I was in the process of choosing the subject of my Master’s thesis, and the factory visit made me fall in love with the company and how they operate. I was over the moon to be able to create my final project for a company that not only manufactures fabrics in Finland using high-quality materials but also has a special focus on design and attractive patterns.
Where did you get the idea for the Tulppaani pattern?
“The pattern actually has a romantic backstory, because when thinking about the pattern I also think about my Dutch partner. I’ve lived in the Netherlands for a few times, for short periods of time, and the inspiration comes from the local tulip fields. The motif is really a somewhat cliché depiction of springtime in the Netherlands, but the colors of the flower fields truly are as magnificent as they say.”
What was the design process like?
“The original sketch was created from paper using a collage technique, and the woven structure is designed with a manual TC2 jacquard loom at the textile studio of the Aalto University. Although the different stages of the design process required different levels of technical skills, the whole design journey was characterized by playfulness and the joy of creating and learning. This joy is reflected in the end result, also, and so is the superb material know-how of Esko Hjelt from Lapuan Kankurit.”
What inspires you?
“I’m inspired by the design process itself – materials, intuition, and tactility all have a crucial role in my designs. At the studio, I’m always cutting, drawing, and painting, and I only start designing digitally at the very end of the process. When designing by hand, the patterns and products reflect my experiences of nature and art. At the moment, I’m inspired by fashion designer Simon Porte Jacquemus and his bubbly, playful vision of fashion.”
What are you currently working on?
“The current lockdown has made me prioritize spending time outdoors and being creative. For me, it has been a time of sketching and coming up with new ideas. Pausing for a moment allows us to think about how we want to design, manufacture, and consume textiles and other products. I personally like doing things my own way, locally and on a smaller scale. We’ll see what kind of wheels start turning after this stagnant time is over!”
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Text: Emmi Ratilainen Images: Lapuan Kankurit and Pilvi Waitinen