Finnish Design

One of the threads that runs through Helsinki is the notion of embedding design in life. Perhaps that’s why it was named the 2012 World Design Capital. Of course, I was drawn to anything having to do with knitting or yarn or weaving. These are a few of the designers I was introduced to at the Design Forum Shop in the Helsinki Design District.

Odd Couture

Odd Couture is a collection of clothing by the designer label Poola Kataryna. I had a close-up view of the garment below but in black and while I initially thought it was knitted, it actually looked knotted together like a macramé plant hanger. It had that hippie look to it but still very modern. According to the designer’s website, the items are made from 100% cotton jersey from textile industry leftovers. All items are handmade in Helsinki.


I Know Why No

I Know Why No is a collection designed by Aino Vainio, a 2007 graduate of the School of Art and Design at Aalto University in Helsinki. According to the I Know Why No website, all items are hand knitted and one-of-a-kind.


Studio Jaffe

From Studio Jaffe, there were incredibly soft mohair wraps and shawls. According to the website, Marjo Jaffe-Pelkonen, the designer, weaves many of her items on a loom.


Globe Hope

Another theme throughout Finnish design is sustainability. One design store that focuses exclusively on recycling everyday items into unique clothing and other accessories is Globe Hope. Globe Hope’s products can be found at the Design Forum and at their own storefront on Mannerheimintie.

Tag from wool hat made from an old army surplus scarf.


Last but not least is Neroko, whose design team creates items for man’s best friend. I liked these chew toys – only for very special dogs!


To see many more designs from porcelain to clothing to dinnerware, visit the Finnish Design Shop online. Follow this link to see why Helsinki was named the 2012 World Design Capital.

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Art deco style covered dish from the Arabia porcelain factory, established in Finland in the 1870s. Throughout the last century, Arabia porcelain has been the traditional dinnerware in Finnish homes and has been passed on as family heirlooms. Delicate Arabia porcelain can be found in museums although today’s tableware is made for the modern family and is oven, microwave and dishwasher safe. This piece is one of the items still made by hand at the factory in Helsinki. The clay is hand-poured into molds from the mid-1900s that were recently discovered in storage. Each piece is hand-glazed to give it this vintage look.

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Johanna Gullichsen Textiles

One of our must-stops while in Helsinki was the Johanna Gullichsen design studio. Located in the Helsinki Design District, (they have another store in Paris), the storefront features table linens, bags, and pillow covers made out of the artist’s bold and geometric woven textiles. The second room contains bolts and bolts of her wonderful fabrics. They are available for purchase for furniture upholstery and there were several chairs in the studio covered in them. While we were there, the designer was in consultation with a client so we did not get an opportunity to speak with her. Nonetheless, we did revel in the various textiles.

The bold geometric design of this bag caught my attention. I love the way the pattern gives the illusion of rolling waves, like looking at a mirage of water on a hot pavement. The bag is large with a nice wide bottom and can be worn over the shoulder or cross-body.

Tetra sack in Doris black fabric with orange strap, 100% cotton. The Doris pattern is also available in blue and bordeaux.
Tetra sack close-up of geometric pattern.

The iPad sleeve was a relatively new product. The colors were particularly attractive and the simple row design keeps it balanced. The sleeve has an inner fabric fold and a velcro closure to keep the iPad safely tucked inside.

Multicolor iPad sleeve.
iPad sleeve with iPad inside (not included).

We picked up a few of these catch-all bags for cosmetics or to corral chords for electronic devices.

Small bags in Nereus black fabric, 100% cotton. The Nereus fabric is also available in blue and bordeaux.

For more about Johanna Gullichsen, read her biography on her website.

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Stella Design

While I perused the rest of the Icelandic Contemporary Design exhibit, I couldn’t help but smile at these fun and whimsical drinking glasses. All the people pictured on them seemed so cheery. I particularly liked the one of the grandmother (I presume) knitting with a big ball of red yarn at her feet. I did a little research and discovered that the glasses were designed by the studio of Stella Design. Stella Design is a young studio established in 2005 by Dagný Kristjansdottir, a multimedia designer, and Ingibjörg Hanna Bjarnadottir, a graphic designer. The glasses are part of a collection they call “My Family” which was “created to brighten up the mundane domestic life.” In my opinion, they succeeded! To learn more about Stella Design and see more adorable pictures of the “My Family” collection, go here.


Visual Inner Structure

During our time in Helsinki, we practically ran into this exhibit featuring designers from Iceland. The Icelandic Contemporary Design exhibit showcases modern Icelandic designers in the categories of furniture, product design and architecture. What caught my eye was this chair – it was covered in thick white yarn! The chair is called “Visual Inner Structure – Second Life of a Chair” and it is the work of Icelandic designer Gudrún Lilja Gunnlaugsdóttir. According to the exhibit, the designer was inspired to create the chair from her experience working with refugees. The chair represents the life of a refugee who is stripped of everything – her past, family, belongings – to start a new life in a new land. The designer then uses yarn to weave a new life for the chair. Here are various views of the piece.

Visual Inner Structure - front view.
Visual Inner Structure - side view.
Visual Inner Structure - back view.
Visual Inner Structure - back view.
Visual Inner Structure - close up of seat springs.
Visual Inner Structure - close up of chair leg and ball of yarn.
Visual Inner Structure - angled front view.

The designer studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven and formed a company called Studiobility, which strives to bring together art and product design. Read this press release about the Icelandic Contemporary Design exhibit in Helsinki. The press release lists all of the designers in the exhibit with links to each of their biographies or websites.