Interview on September 2, 2011
Hello! How are you?
Hey! Good, thank you. I'm just now at my summer cottage on Lake Saimaa.
You designed the colorful Avenue rugs that are a new addition to Finnish Design Shop’s collection. Can you tell us more about them?
The Avenue rugs were presented this spring at the Milan furniture fair. They are clear, asymmetrical, and colorfully striped. Carpets are a harmonic composition, such as a painting or abstract picture. They are certainly some of the more colorful of Woodnotes - I wanted to bring them joy. Colors have a big impact, for example, yellow was the obvious choice for the opposite of black.
You have had a long career. What about your work has changed the most?
The essential elements have not changed. Sense of color and the way of coloring come with birth. When I look at my old color maps, I find the same colors. But things can not be made with the same formula – you have to continue the cycle of transformation. I think it is very important.
How would you describe your style?
I am quite considerably a simplifier! The cleanliness of form has a big significance. The designer has a responsibility and a duty: a product which disfigures a room must not be made. The product must also be, easily changed and thus ecological.
Scent of Lemon
Who are the designers who influence you most?
Kaj Franck is, of course, one. He did not happen to be my teacher during my studies but the work of Franck is important to me. He was the master of the simplifying. The other designer who is important to me is American fashion designer Donna Karan whose career I have followed from the beginning of the 1980's. She designs wonderful every day clothes. They are stylishly cut, materials are good and all the clothes go together well. I have gotten much joy from this insight.
What has been the highlight of your career?
I could say that the prizes don’t have much meaning later in life. Instead I remember when I was hired as young designer in 1961 to work at Dansk Designs Inc in the United States. I had an exhibition in 23 towns and all the ideas were accepted. It felt great.
You also have done some unique pieces. What is their role to you?
I have done a lot of unique pieces and they are also in museums around the world. It is important that something also else can be done in addition to regular work. In a critique it was aptly said that my unique pieces serve as the laboratory to my other work. Some ideas have indeed been carried over to mass production.
What about ryijy wall rugs? You also have designed them.
I began designing ryijy wall rugs in 1958. I took part in the Friends of Finnish Handicrafts competition and from that I got more recognition. My ryijy wall rugs were sent to exhibitions and I won the gold medal at the XII Milan triennial. The rug has served as the substitute to me as a painting. I see a modern ryijy wall rug as a painting; its fuzzy surface is fiercely fascinating and nuanced.
Deep Sea Fish
What are your hobbies?
My hobby and work are the same to me. The continuity and the fact that it is possible to do this are most important to me. I could say that my family also is a big hobby. I have three boys and seven grandchildren. I also like to draw a little very day. I am of the age that I admire good architecture but it has not been possible to be a hobby. The functional architecture cheers up the every day life, therefore I appreciate architects quite a lot.
What regards would you tell to young designers?
In Finland there are so many gifted designers, the support for doing design is so good. One’s own path should be followed and it should be been original. The ideas must be refined and shouldn’t jump from one matter to another. And work, one must always remember to make them to an end.
Text: Mikko Vaija
Translation: Darby Thomas