Eija Koski – The Skymaker
The Finnish word "himmeli", which is a form of straw art, originates from the sky. People also often ask if there is something holy in himmelis. Certainly there is something in it.
The rye field waves in the summer wind, and the soft light through the leaves above makes the yard feel like a cosy nest. Only a lone swallow breaks the silence, drawing lines on the canvaslike blue sky. This very place, in the midst of Ostrobothnian plains, is an artist's dream come true.
Is there anything more beautiful than a reflection on an old shed's chalk wall? Himmelist Eija Koski's world-famous artwork hangs here; straw yellow, graphic black, even colourful. Almost three meters long, the largest one hangs noble, while the smallest one fits in a tiny box. People around the world are mad about this artwork – in Japan, Finland, the young and the old. Himmeli is not something old any more, it's trendy in modern homes, public spaces and galleries.
Passion and Purity
Also the modern, yet traditional textiles of Lapuan Kankurit feel at home here, says Eija Koski.
– There is a unique spirit in Lapuan Kankurit textiles, just as in my artwork. They embrace something very Finnish, but at the same time they are modern and express passion. I appreciate the fact that the linen textiles are made nearby, from natural ingredients.
The wool and linen products are in use also in the artist's summer cottage.
– There we sit on the porch, enjoying the sea breeze, all cuddled up in bath gowns. Natural materials feel so soft and warm.
Eija Koski has always loved the nature, woods and its offerings. In her atelier, she also arranges courses on wild herbs and mushrooms. Organic flour from the surrounding fields is sold in brown paper bags. – We also run an organic farm, and it is just fabulous to follow the seasons: how the nature awakens in the spring and how the sprouts turn into crop. When the dusk falls, all kinds of wild animals visit our yard – even moose. I often ride my bike to pick mushrooms in the woods. The wild nature is so wonderful; the universal laws of beauty are still visible.
Why is it that himmeli touches people around the world?
– First I thought that it is the material, rye, which is considered the king of grain.
– For me, beauty equals harmony. I found Plato's idea that there is eternal beauty, which consists of lines and mathematical patterns. And there it was: himmeli actually is an octahedron, one of the five basic solids. Now I understand why himmeli is so widely considered beautiful.
– I often think how lucky I am having the privilege of working with nature and creating pure beauty, touching souls. I have turned my passion into a profession.
Authenticity That Spans Generations
The foggy fields welcome the visitor into Johanna Talso and Juha Koskela's home. The surroundings seem to celebrate the couple whose artisanal lifestyle is built on the appreciation of nature and tradition.
Johanna organises an annual craft fair where artisans and customers meet in 18th century historical surroundings, and sews historically accurate clothing from linen fabrics. "I grew up on a farm, so the landscape of my soul is a field," Johanna says.
When duty calls, Johanna doesn't count the hours. Ideas follow her everywhere she goes, and she sees that as a blessing. "An artisan's mind works differently," Johanna says and laughs. "We're a little weird like that." Her husband Juha Koskela is an awarded goldsmith, so craftsmanship is always present in their life.
Timeless, long-lasting materials and products have a special role in Johanna's life. She appreciates design and objects that endure. "They're not confined to present moment," she says. Textiles that can be passed down to future generations are valuable to her. In fact, she reveals that she still has some of the original linens designed by the world-renowned textile artist Dora Jung in the 1960s. The beauty of the linens hasn't faded over time. Lapuan Kankurit is currently reviving Jung's designs according to the original drawings and instructions, proving that their elegance really does span generations.
Johanna uses authentic materials, because they look and feel right. She sews clothing from Lapuan Kankurit linen fabrics, and Juha uses precious metals in his jewellery. "Tradition, history, nature, and authenticity all go hand in hand," Johanna says. The couple agrees that they didn't understand the significance of traditions when they were younger. "Now those strong values are more present in Finnish culture", Juha analyses. Johanna says that her family has always saved fun, beautiful, or handmade items. "I have my great-grandmother's linen tablecloths, and they're still in great condition," she smiles. She hopes that families continue to pass down items that are made to stand the test of time.
While craftsmanship is valued in Finland and all over the world, it still remains a marginal phenomenon. "Is it a trend to value craftsmanship, or is it really valued?" Johanna wonders. The pricing of handmade crafts is still occasionally debated. However, trendsetting magazines have also started to introduce artisanal products. "Crafts will always compete with mass-produced items," Juha adds. He's noticed that people also value individuality, and that's when trendy labels don't matter: "People want to create their unique appearance with clothing and jewellery." Johanna and Juha don't seem worried about craftsmanship disappearing altogether. "It'll always be there, sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker," Juha says. "They're appreciated more, because people don't make crafts themselves anymore."
As craftswoman and organiser of the 18th century craft fair, Johanna has experiences both sides of the artisanal community. It might be a small group of people, but special at that: "The artisanal community is close-knit," she smiles. Juha agrees. "There's a small group of people who don't want to fit in," he says, "and that's what we call craftsmanship."