With only twenty four-days until my departure to Helsinki, the first few entries on this blog will provide a backdrop for my upcoming journey. This fall, I will be working at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, Finland. I will research Finnish textile design, especially the company Marimekko.
Growing up, my sister and I had matching blue and pink sheets. I found these sheets at the Salvation Army in Royal Oak, Michigan about a year ago, sealed in the original Marimekko packaging. Finding my childhood bedspread sparked my interest in the company.
Husband and wife, Armi and Viljio Ratia founded Marimekko in 1951. Armi, who was a trained Industrial Designer, enlisted the help of her artist friends to make patterns for cloth. She worked closely with artists such as Maija Isola, who had a career as a painter in addition to her significant work at Marimekko. Isola traveled extensively throughout Europe, North America, and North Africa, blending modern visual art with traditional forms of Finnish folk art into her patterns. For example, Isola’s Appelsiini (the Finnish word for “orange”) refines the basic motif of this halved fruit into an elegant but playful pattern. Photogram techniques, traditional woodblock printing and a common food harmonize in this design. This particular pattern can be seen in purple in Kar Wai Wong’s movie In the Mood for Love.
The company’s website outlines its core beliefs including enthusiasm and honesty. Moreover, the Marimekko Corporation is committed to promoting a positive outlook on life through the expression of beauty. From the very beginning, the founders believed that Marimekko was much more than a company: it is a lifestyle.