“What sets Finnish intellect apart in many ways
is its appreciation for irony”
Curator of the Finnish Collection
Finland takes a firm hold as one of the most pristine natural environments that Europe has to offer, from rugged tundras watched over by looming mountain peaks, to captivating and uncountable mythical forests lakes and islands. Finnish designers today are reinterpreting their enchanting home and cultural environment with an ironic twist that is recognizably Finnish. Each one of these designers expert craftsmen and craftswomen in their own regards, who deliver works beyond formal mastery of their chosen skills but showcase a realm of design encroaching more and more into the commonly defined territory of fine art. With strong conceptualization, form and process innovation, the designers represented in this collection breath new life into collectible design in an established design scene previously dominated by minimalistic functionality.
Adorno is proud to present the Finnish Collection, curated by Sebastian Jansson to be exhibited this year at Crossovers: 2019 during London Design Fair. Ironic by Nature; works by 7 master designers and studios who pair a sophisticated and intellectual approach to irony with the natural world resulting in a completely novel interpretation of an enchantment.
Designers and studios featured in the Finish collection represent masters of a diverse range of craft traditions from wood and metal working to weaving and ceramics including Aalto+Aalto, Kustaa Saksi, Hanna Anonen, Veera Kulju, Tero Kuitunen, Merit Milla Vaahtera , Antrei Hartikainen.
The Finish Collection
What are the main themes presented across the works in the collection?
Well I think that we have a long tradition in specific genres of craft, one being wood, one being glass, and I think that this is something that pops out in the Finnish collection. In general why collectible design is very topical today is on one hand that we are very overwhelmed with information but also with consumer goods that are of quite poor quality, which has created a very broad cultural movement towards crafts. This can be seen whether we look at micro-brewing or roasting coffee or towards crafted products. I think that how we appreciate the hand-made, traditions and the reinterpretations of the old traditions is something that many new makers are curious to study.
When it comes to expression, I think that how the different works in the Finnish collection reflect our time, in that it is very much about how we combine a level of intellect into the making and finding that sweet spot is what signifies collectible design in general. This collection proposes a very high ambition of intellectual dialogue in combination with very unique methods of crafts that both lie on different specific traditions, but also very much in terms of experimenting with new interpretations of those ways of making thinks.
What sets Finnish intellect apart in many ways is an appreciation for irony, this is something that is very typical for Finnish mentality in general. In some context, this Finnish attitude this might be confused with playfulness or something more humorous, from an international perspective I definitely see this more as in terms of irony. On the other hand, this is very typical of Finnish humor having a dry and ironic approach to life.
Give us 3 words that describe the current design scene in Finland.
Irony, Intellect and Collaboration.
How has the shadow cast by the “golden age” of Finish design in the 1950’s affected today’s contemporary designers in Finland?
If we possibly consider this shadow of modernism to say that there was something so holistic, so wide and so recognizable that it’s difficult to compare up against it. I think that everyone would consider the shadow of modernism in different ways, and the ones that are more aware of let’s say Alvar Aalto’s very diverse, multidisciplinary approach. In my opinion, this is really something that we should learn from, continue developing and elaborate on those practices. We should pursue the ideas of how to fuse everything from city planning into a doorknob or a wall-mounted sculpture from experiments on wood, how spaces are livable. Alvar Aalto was extremely well connected with whether it be artists or intellectuals or influencers in general internationally of his time, there are many things that are very valuable for us to underline rather than to escape or run away or try to reinvent. I see this from the standpoint of collaborative approaches as well; I think in Finland especially, people are quite collaborative on a high degree specifically behind the scenes, helping out each other, a sense of open-mindedness for sharing information, contacts, and resources that is an interesting underlying theme in general.
What I think is interesting in Merit Milla Vaahtera’s works is that it sort of a natural continuation of her work with her mother, her mother was a jeweler and she has been studying glass blowing so she has been combining those ways of making and experimenting new expressions, which has ended up in extremely beautiful things, and her mobiles have a very strong connections to the tradition of mobiles and the tradition of her craft but it adds on something extremely sensitive in a sense and beautiful in general.
The pieces presented in this collection meld minimalistic aesthetics with actually quite complex and innovative production methods, for example with Veera Kulju, what do you think this says about Finish culture?
I would say that we have very diverse expressions coming from Finland, on the one hand, we would have something that is extremely sparkly and colorful and on the other hand, we would have examples of extremely pale and minimalistic expressions. I would say that maybe also represents the broad range of personalities and mentalities that Finns many times represent. Some people might be very introverted and unexpressive but then the small expressions and gestures become very powerful in a way. So this does exist but at the same time, we have expressions that are incredibly strong, powerful and energetic. So, in reality, all Finns would be nontalkative or non-expressive, etc, we have such strong contrasts also, I think this is something that is very visible in the different works of the designers.
A focus on material and function is also present in these pieces, in what ways are these designers addressing a global need for responsible consumption and why is this so important?
Finns, as most Nordic people, have a very high respect for the environment and are naturally connected to nature. We have long traditions of just being in nature and we are truly aware of nature in many different ways. I think that in this way it becomes almost self-evident that if one has the possibility to craft something his or her self, thus becoming aware of the materials and the processes would lead to respect for sustainable values in general.
Connections to World Design
What does this collection say about the state of contemporary design internationally?
How I see it is that especially for the Finnish makers and creators who are often entitled “designers” but are at the end of the day they are still working on self-initiated, collectible pieces. This shows the transformation that design is currently undergoing; we are moving much closer to the realm of art. The importance of this shows us that we need to find more ways of merging these two disciplines, especially as a counter-movement to our current production norms, that are shifting towards Asia or Eastern Europe or wherever production, in general, is cheap. This new focus furthers the gap between creating and mass-producing which makes it naturally in one way harder for aspiring designers to merge with the industry but on the other hand it enables them and guides them more towards channeling their creativity. We can see this in terms of craft but also in terms of intellect and intellectual concepts and ideas where they are moving towards unique, collectible pieces and artifacts that carry a certain meaning along with values for people everywhere and especially from Finland.
What is exciting about having this collection displayed together with other top design scenes from around the world?
This contextualization will emphasize the characteristics of the pieces from Finland when placed on a different backdrop and in contrast to the pieces from the other parts of the world. The result of this would be that we can somehow share on a global level relevant values that show how we can connect the world intellectually by bringing these pieces together from different parts of the world to see these cultural differences across separated regions of the world
Curated by Sebastian Jansson
I’m an industrial designer, I have had my studio for 10 years working on both prototypes and one-offs, both approaching the furniture industry and also creating many exhibitions throughout Europe. Currently, I work as one of the founding partners of Made by Choice which is a growing furniture company and design studio specializing in wood and furniture making with our own factory in Finland enjoying about 40 artisans with the ambition of bringing forward the traditions of woodworking for the coming generations. With my curatorial work, I have especially wanted to highlight some of the great creators and minds of Finnish design and collectible design currently, that I find internationally relevant and interesting as a representation of the current time and culture of Finland. The ambition has been to present a diverse and contrasting selection of creators and pieces by them, in this way I hope that it also illustrates the diverse skills in terms of crafts and its traditions but also the high level of intellectual approach.
What is your current favorite piece of design you have encountered and why?
The Kholo Unique Lounge Chair, part of a collaborative series by US artist, Mathew Day Jackson for Made by Choice. This chair bears so much meaning and symbolism, from the snake-like structures which bring to mind chaos and biblical temptation together with the moon as an image of a perfect self, it was made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.