Saturday, May 7

Fiskars Village in Finland

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If the buzzing Design District in Helsinki is the heart of Finnish Art and Design, then its soul must surely reside in the Fiskars Village. Set in picturesque Finnish countryside about 100 km west of Helsinki on the old main road from Turku to Vyborg, it provides a very tranquil setting for the artists who reside here. 

Founded in 1649, Fiskars the well-known scissors brand started its ironworks in this small village, at a time when this region of Finland was renowned for production of iron. Despite this long history, Fiskars started moving its operations out of the village in 1980’s as it needed bigger and modern facilities. Leaving these beautiful brick buildings empty and abandoned, much like the mill buildings in Manchester.  
However, unlike the industrial buildings in Manchester, this was not the end for this Finnish village, wanting to keep the traditions of the village alive; Fiskars started looking for new uses and inhabitants. This was the beginning of a project titled ‘A Living Ironworks Village’ which brought craftsmen, designers and artists to live and work in the vacant historic buildings and form a commune. 

Set up in 1996 ‘The Cooperative of Artisans, Designers and Artists’ was a huge success and the result is the Fiskars Village of today. Today there are 121 artists in residence with professions ranging from cabinetry makers to ceramists and visual artists to industrial designers. 

The village provides an ideal setting to display the high-quality Finnish art and industrial design that these artists produce. Design shops dot the village and there are regular exhibitions to showcase the artists work. The official shop on the premises is Onoma, which is a located in the the Clock Tower. It  is wonderfully laid out, with its shelves chock full of quirky objects made by the resident artists. It was made all the more magical because of its setting in a period building, with light streaming in from the large casement windows.

handmade glass plates by artist in residence Anu Penttinen
A quirky chandelier made of twigs and copper wire
candle stands by Anneli Sainio 

ceramics and tableware
glass floor lamp and vases

Trays and other wooden items by Tuulia Penttila made of Finnish Birch
During my visit to the Village, I also chanced upon a very interesting exhibition called ‘CASE in point’. According to its brochure, “Boxes, containers and cases have fascinated people throughout the ages, and they are artifacts of wide range and diversity. The purpose of CASE in point is to find new ideas and forms related to the concept of the container”

The exhibition featured over a hundred boxes by different artists. There were antique boxes to store decanters, cigars and even a grooming set. Juxtaposed with these were the modern boxes to store such intangible items such as dreams and memories, whisper prayers in or hide things.
of boxes old
and boxes new
Made of innovative materials, these turned the concept of the container on its head, with diverse spatial interpretations of what we might think of as a box.

Most of the pieces were works by new designers and students that were showing to the public for the first time. Instead of seeming amateurish, this lent an element of surprise to the objects and I came away feeling refreshed, and if you may spare the pun, thinking out of the box!

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