Sunday, 7 October 2018

Abstract Quilt Art

It is already October. Last week we had the first snow as usual this time of year. Autumn is turning to Winter and I have decided that this quilt project shall be the last one I am making this year. Evenings are so dark that there is no sense trying to sew by hand and do the stitching as both require good light. In November I am going to a holiday abroad and I have plans to gather as much inspiration in few days as possible. Mid winter is great time to process all that inspiration into new works and maybe do some small Christmas DIYs.

There is something that makes me think of Christmas in this quilt project too. The colour palette reminds me of the colours of the fifties and nostalgic Christmas hues red and green. Christmas was not in my mind when I draw and planned this pattern. It took time to figure out where I had picked the colour combination. It was many months ago when I saw an old fishing net that had the most beautiful combination of reds and greens. I saved that picture to my mind and thought  I could use it sometime. A month ago I was in a fabric shop and began to combine colours that looked new to me. The red I chose turns into orange and it looked challenging with dark bluish violet. Then some green and the combo began to look nice. These colors together are not easy but they pleased my eye so I decided to take a risk. The pattern looks like a net too. It is about separate groups that attach to each other. The stitching will make it visible even though you might already see the links. There are nine groups and one is formed just with simple I. It is like the dot in a clause.

I am quite sure that rest of the October shall go with this project. I have had busy weeks and now I try to narrow what things I will take part to. There is everything interesting going on but I can't attend to all. I have to choose and find time for just being at home sewing and reading. Also I see that i need to lower my standards. I want to do all with 100% volume when at times it is not even necessary. Things would be more enjoyable if I didn't put too ambitious goals. With these quilt projects I think it is good to decide that now I make this one and then have a break until Spring and light arrives. Sure I can make just few stitches every now and then but in reality these projects occupy my whole home and I get pressure to finish these in some reasonable time. It is also appealing to get to crochet and watch movies in November and October evenings. I already bough yarns to one project in August.

What are your plans for creative work this Autumn/Winter season?

Thursday, 20 September 2018

New Skin

She gets a little money from somewhere, goes and spends it to a new outfit. It is more than retail therapy in order to feel good. She buys a new armor to survive a next humiliation. Because the humiliations never end, she spent her last money to that outfit and is forced to contact old acquaintances and ask for money to cover her basic needs.

36/52 Jean Rhys: After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (1930). It is somewhere around 1920s and Julia lives from day to day. She has left Mr Mackenzie half an year ago and lives in a hotel getting weekly money envelopes from her past lover. She is loose from the world and blurs her mind with alcohol. She is careless and doesn't see a chance to take the lead of her own life. What comes to her basic income she has relied on men the past decades.

Men see a woman sitting in a bar as a possibility to have a jolly evening. Julia doesn't invite them but they come anyways and expect that she offers light and enjoyable company. Mr Horsfield seeks Julia's company even though she is not that keen to be entertaining. He is disappointed when it reveals that Julia is depressed and not that kind of company he wished for. Though he has no reason and right to demand Julia to be different he is in belief that his presence will change the atmosphere. That a woman who is alone comes happy and pleased when she gets male attention. Before they leave the bar Julia says her clothes are shabby and she is not herself. She is absent and fears she might lose her mind. Despite this Horsfield thinks he can make the situation turn into something different. And later in the novel he sees that Julia takes advantage of him by asking support. It is a thought provoking contrast what they speak together and what they think in their own minds. Horsfield acts as he wants to help and seeks a company of a woman who is going through a hard time. Yet at the same time he moralizes Julia's behavior, how she takes advantage without giving him anything back. Maybe it is about communication, we wish things had a different meaning so we could get what we want.

The way she makes decisions is an opposite of leading her own life. Whether she goes to London or stays in Paris is decided by a car horn that makes a sound before she counts to three. She is not actually thinking her options and reasons to go to London. The decision is random and that effects to her whole stay in the city. Her sister and mother haven't expected her and her sister is not that keen to take her back into her life. Sister Norah and Julia have completely different lifestyles. In those two characters Rhys writes about pros and cons of both women's decisions. A reader can empathize both sides and live through the pain they have had in their life. Julia is homeless wanderer, who has had many relationships and also chances to see the world. Yet she remembers how her younger sister Norah got more attention from their mother. Norah has been taking care of their mother. People respect her and her sacrifice. That respect has become a prison of duty and honor. The kind words make her stand from day to day but also keep her stuck. Reassuring support she gets makes her loose the grip on her life. When she begins to doubt her decisions and thinks about other options she stays in her place because it is save. She gets a panic about how time has gone and repeats to herself that she is still young.

As an opposite Julia sees in the men's eyes that she is old and worn out. Uncle Griffits evaluates Julia and makes a judgement that she is not young anymore. He makes it sound like that not being young anymore makes her someone to feel pity. It is a fine line how long you can assure yourself that you are still young and decisions what to make of your life are in front of you. Pushing the panic away is a mechanism that makes one push necessary decisions to the future. The way Rhys writes about time and opportunities passing is melancholic, true and powerful. She doesn't tell which one is the right way to choose but reveals how difficult it is to stay awake in one's own life. As if she says don't sleep too long or sleep through your whole life without caring.

Julia is sensitive and when she walks though the streets of Paris and London she looks in the minds of people. She cares what people think about her and is afraid that she seems idiotic. She is relatively young, 36, but in the phase of her life when she begins to think of her age and how it shows. Julia doesn't take strength from the life experiences she has had. She is vulnerable to the eyes of others. Maybe people don't even pay attention to her. I wonder how much we pay attention to how people look at us in the streets. Sometimes subconsciously we brush our hair with our hand to make ourselves more presentable.

In the end Julia is not a victim. She knows how to make a new skin and continue forward. She has no wish to disappear even though in other ways she is careless. She knows how to use men who push into her company to her own advantage. She turns upside town the setting where men want to use her to their own amusement. In the end she is not someone to be helped but someone who helps herself no matter how humiliating the circumstances are at times. She ponders how amazing things there may be waiting for her, happiness, facial massage. I loved her wry humor that connects to the advertisements we see in our Instagram feed. Happiness and facial massage seen as as equal sources of fulfillment in woman's life.  A new tampon that makes us jump bungee jumps.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Walk and Take the Urban Space

Wondering and wandering go hand in hand. Walking gives mental space to concentrate and go through issues that have jammed inside one's head. When in movement it feels like even the things that are stuck and without an answer begin to move and get a new order. For many creative processes walking is an essential part. One comes up with an idea but a good long walk enables the thinking go to the second level. The idea being processed gets a new and even better form. In hard times walking can be one of the few activities one can do. It is possible to adjust the pace and just keep moving no matter how slowly but still going somewhere. Maybe not going to a physical place but towards a solution and some outcome that leads forward. Walking can help to notice the steps that take closer to one's dreams. It is concrete action that makes one see action in issues that are hard to define.

35/52 Lauren Elkin's Flâneuse. Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London (2016) is about walking in urban space and it's many meanings. It asks to whom the urban space belongs, who can walk there and who can wander observing passers by. It ponders how urban cities open to the female walker. It inspires to go and explore the cities around the world by walking.

Elkin is accompanied by women from different eras of time. Women who have both been keen to walk and knew their city with it's every detail. At the same time when Elkin walks with inspiring writers like Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys and Martha Gellhorn, she goes through their work and alleys they took. She takes the same paths and reflects the same issues they either brought up in their work or had in their personal life. If you love book, film and art recommendations this book will offer you many. There is so many interesting works to enjoy from films by Agnes Varda to novels by George Sand. Not to mention countless cites Elkin makes through the book raising a dream to become as well sophisticated as she is. I have always been deeply inspired by people who are able to move from level to another in cultural and societal discussions, how they can drop a name or two, cite some recent research, quote in French or Latin, talk about what is happening in popular culture today and draw lines of connection between this all.

Urban space has not always been available for women and even these days we ask ourselves if we can go out in certain parts of the city or walk around save in certain hours. City offers lots to explore but also threats. Even nowadays a woman can't walk alone in some places, either because it is not save or because it is not approved by society. When we walk we are not moved by others we move ourselves, take the space ourselves and explore it with our own terms. We can choose to take different route instead of being driven to given places and answers. Virginia Woolf moved with her sister Vanessa to Bloomsbury. From save and predictable Kensington to an area that didn't hold the best of reputation. What Bloomsbury gave her was freedom to walk and think. With fellow artists she could develop ideas and choose whole new ways of organizing her world. Some spaces still stayed closed for women. In A Room of One's Own women are not allowed to go to the university campus lawn and library. But Virginia is well aware of this injustice, she is a feminist who goes to test the limits of her time and writes to us all if there are faults in the current thinking.

Elkin defines flâneuse and seeks to show that women too can walk and observe. We might think why not, sure women too can observe and walk in urban space as they like. What has hold against this is that women are the one's to be observed and seen and thus it is impossible to observe, be part of the mass if you stand out. Man is the norm in urban space and men can fade themselves to the background. That is how the thought of flâneur is based, that men can hide themselves and become observers. In times when women were not that common sight on streets, cafes and bars they have raised more curiosity. But there were curious and adventurous women in history too, flâneuses, who took the space. Sometimes in disguise, like George Sand, most often without, taking the observing gaze directed to them and gazing their observers back.

Walking and going are protests per se but it is also good to notice that manifests are also partly about walking in public space. At the same time when one walks they tell why they walk. Apart from flâneuse in manifest the point is to be seen and to be present to the public eye. Elkin tells her story how she first tried to stay away from manifests and keep a low profile but eventually by accident got into one and learned how it feels to be in a group. She sees the meaning of the manifest not as opposing those in power but as a way to show fellow citizens that these kind of opinions exist. It might be that the presence of opinion encourages those who observe to re-evaluate their thinking.

When we travel we want places to open to us and invite us in. Even if we seek something different to what we are used to we still hope that the different works with the same core principles. Elkin tells about her experiences in Tokyo. She gets a possibility to live in Tokyo when her boyfriend gets a job in the city. When she gets there she begins to feel that the city is not as inviting as the other cities where she has made her home in. Tokyo craves time to get to know how it functions. Streets are marked in a different way and products on store don't look familiar. Tokyo wants the explorer to stay longer before it shows it's character.

Is to wander to be without any attachments or vice versa? Maybe the essence of flâneur is to be able to go to the shared urban space and explore it and get to know people with whom you share the space with. One can have a camp in the world or several camps from where they go to their walks. Walks can head to nearby streets or around the world. Point is to own the outside space with others instead of being bound inside the four walls. For Elkin Paris is her home in the world even though she has lived in various cities. Paris is where she begins her journeys and where she wants back. For author and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn it was restricting to own a house and be bound to certain place. She was in her bets element when she got to see the world, observe what she saw and report to those in their homes what happened in war zones. It is everyone's own balance between wandering and being in one place. Also the distance of these wanderings is something we can choose. Do we need to go another side of the world or is it enough to see how life goes in neighbor suburb.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Story Behind The Photographs

34/52 Rupert Thomson: Never Anyone But You (2018) Never Anyone But You tells the life story of Suzanne Malherbe and Lucie Schwob also known as Marcel Moore and Claude Cahun. The artist couple met each other in 1909 and the novel follows their life for several decades. During that time they went through both First and Second World War as well as the free and fascinating time that Paris lived between the wars. Marcel Moore was a visual artist and Claude Cahun author who wrote novels, articles and other texts. Cahun also posed in self-portraits that she took together with Marcel. In those portraits Cahun studies gender identity by using different costumes, poses and roles.

 Might contain spoilers! The story is told from Marcel's perspective and the photographs they take together are essential part of the novel's structure. I felt that the time sort of stopped when they began to make arrangements for a photo shooting. In the old times people thought that the camera steals the soul. Their self-portraits are still available for us to see and Thomson pays attention to the moment and the surroundings where the couple created their works. Those moments are not quick and spontaneous. The photographs are designed and finished. The idea seems to come from Claude who chooses the clothes, makeup and role she wants to present. Marcel is the one who shoots the photographs. The photos show different sides of Claude. She examines herself in those moments when she is in front of the camera. Some photos take part to political discussions and societal issues.

For Marcel Claude is the center point of her life. Claude is demanding personality who brings in the drama. Through their life together she has many suicide attempts and she is always between life and death. She refuses to eat and makes her body a work she molds according to her artistic ambitions. When Marcel tries to take photographs without Claude she sees how empty the pictures are. The art they make together is the core of her life and Claude is the only subject she has in her work. She ponders:

"My subject has been taken from me. 
My love had been taken from me. 
Or perhaps that was my subject."

The novel makes you think how easy it is to vanish from the scene of history. They both did creative work and belonged to the artistic societies. They were part of the surrealist movement and in the same circles with them was for example Salvador Dalí. The time between wars was liberal and experimental. They had parties and interesting artistic projects. The contrast between peace time and war is enormous. They are forced to move from Paris to Jersey to be save. The societies are broken and can't be fixed. After the war not everyone is present. People have been scattered around this world and beyond. Some of the artists they knew continue their career. But Marcel and Claude have vanished and their work forgotten. How history is written is not objective and the overall spirit of each time decides who is remembered and who is forgotten. They might have been ahead of their time. The time between wars was a short glimpse to the future and in that bubble they bloomed. After the second world war came a conservative boost. Traditions and old norms became the surviving mechanism from the war that had been incomprehensible in it's cruelty.

Marcel and Claude inspire us when they create a resistance movement against the Nazi ideology. In Jersey they see German soldiers and become aware that some of them think differently and don't share the ideology. They see a possibility to influence on those soldier's attitudes towards the cruelties and war. Their dedication to the pacifist campaign is so huge that the German who question them find it difficult to comprehend that is all crafted by two elderly women instead of a whole group of people. In the campaign they use the tools given to them, their Art. In this project as well as in their other personal choices they are not afraid of risks. That is what makes their work and life visionary. If they did only what was safe there would't be anything we can learn about. Their life would be part of the ordinary canon and part of the history book narrative; A mass of events that form a bigger picture and where individuals with visionary thoughts and acts are not forming the way we think but we are assured to continue on believing what we have been taught is true and right.

Then again even though the history can make us vanish we do not leave the world without a mark. There must be a trace we leave. The generations to come might get interested and find new value on art that once didn't get acknowledged the way it should have been. In a new surroundings and atmosphere the art made decades before gets new meanings and speaks differently. In today's world when the understanding of the diversity of gender has become broader Claude's examinations about her identity visualize what she feels inside. When looking at the photos it is interesting to notice how one person can be many. How she wants to be seen defines who we see in the picture. And it essential notion in the novel too. When they take photographs Claude decides what there will be in the picture. She takes a pose, arranges her hair and asks Marcel to wait for the moment when she is ready. Claude is on both sides of the camera.

Thomson's novel is perfect read for these dark Autumn evenings. It is romantic story of a couple whose love lasted for a whole lifetime. It describes Paris between wars, inspiring new movements and possibilities. It makes us see our potential on fighting against destroying and harmful ideologies that seem to be overpowering and invincible. It is also interesting to go and see the actual self-portraits that are described in the novel, one can find their photographs with a simple search using their names.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Modern Quilt Art

Quilt: Orange Is the Rule Breaker
In this work orange become the color that breaks the harmony. Without it this quilt would look boring. Now that the colour challenges the eye one has to look again to form an opinion.

It is always equally pleasing to introduce a new quilt work. These are all so different even though you might recognize that the style is the same and works are made by the same person. In every work I try to test new ideas, search inspiration from different sources and combine colours that inspire me the most at the time. These are all modern and timeless yet I am not afraid to put hints to the time these have been done. Quilt art should last time like art in general and it should not be bound to trends that make it look worn out after year or two. Still I think art also preserves the essence of the time and era that is lived. That is why it is natural that art represents the ideas and currents of the time or in it's most visionary predicts the future we all might not even see. Then we can both see the moment when work was created, let it discuss with what we have now and based on this discussion develop new ideas. One might see from the colours that I am using that this particular work is created around the late 2010s. The work might connect to what happened in this era and what we talked about in the society. When I go to an exhibition this is one way I look at the works. Next step is to understand the similarities to our time and if we ponder same kind of issues these days.

Quite often things just change form yet the core is the same. The pattern for this work is inspired by staircase I saw months ago on my walk. The end result brings to my mind art deco with it's shell like curves. What comes to the era after the first world war we might see many connections to our time. Fashion has always looked inspiration from past decades and centuries. What comes to societal climate of the 1920s - 1940s we hear same kind of voices today. People's desperation and those who are not afraid to use it for their own purposes. I really hope art can be one path to show us from where we have come to this moment. Art can make us see where appealing rhetoric and blind following will take us. In hard times artists made their dreams visible though art and those are the pictures that tell us our real possibilities and how high we can actually aim.

We can enjoy art and we are all allowed to create. What ever is the way for going through emotions -  quilting, painting, moving, cooking... - it is great there is something to make us think and process. We become emotionally blind if we don't create, play and question what is given. Person who creates solves problems and begins to see the opportunities and new ways of doing things. If we don't develop a capacity to question we begin to believe that the solutions given to us are all there is. I have always seen crafts as a form of empowerment. The moment when I draw, test ideas and make is a moment when I have a small arena of my own. I can make decisions, do errors and make corrections and after the process I have something that I can be proud of. An object I have made by myself with my own decisions and skills. Creative processes give self-confidence and knowledge about one's own capacity and through this one has courage to be critical and use their own voice. Quite many things can be taken away easily but creative mind is somewhere deeper.

I have already been sketching a new quilt project. I have fallen in love to the notion that fabric can be so fluent like liquid on canvas. It can be twisted and sculptured to curves. I will test the limits of fabric and draw more challenging patterns. I have noticed that even the most difficult forms are possible with the right technique. It is so much fun to use imagination and come up with an idea that craves time and determination to come into reality.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Uncensored Self-Portrait

33/52 Violette Leduc: La Bâtarde (1964) What would subscribe best Violette Leduc's novel La Bâtarde is uncensored self-portrait. She hits the spot in 2018 when myths and taboos about womanhood are broken with honest new works of art and social media discussions. Leduc writes down all things that hold a meaning in her life and does it with brutal honesty. She doesn't leave out even the ugliest parts, something that a writer is allowed to do when making an interpretation of their life. It seems she wants to reveal herself without caring too much about the opinion of the public. The novel is personal and goes to private moments that no one would see or hear about if she didn't choose to tell. As we know from the discussion we get to take a part today, it is liberating to see realistic images on what it is to be a human.  

Leduc's descriptions about her romantic relationships are very passionate and full of life. When she pictures her first love with Isabelle she lingers in their desire and sexual tension. She tells about a relationship that has very poor possibilities to survive. After she lets go of Isabelle she meets Hermine. In a relationship with her she is a bit cold and uncaring. At first it seems like she is just placing Isabelle with someone she doesn't care. Violette doesn't stop Hermine for overworking and giving all the money she gets for Violette's clothes and restaurant dinners.  Leduc writes thoroughly what is in her mind, the feelings she is having and what is happening in her body. Her straight forward style makes the novel interesting to read right from the beginning. In a modern way she shows the most deepest ponderings as they are. She concentrates on details and achieves authenticity leaving out common and referential notions. Instead of introducing broader concepts she tells directly what those mean to her and what kind of appearances they get in her life.

Through the book Violette struggles with her looks. She sees herself ugly and brings up comments she has gotten from others that would make her notion look accurate. Somehow when I read the novel it was out of context in her life that she brings up her looks and it made me think if she brings it up just because of vanity. She has interesting life, friends in cultural circles, lovers, possibilities and encouragement in her career. Yet she talks about her looks like it was a thing to stop her from achieving something. Maybe it is her own aesthetic that she is not pleased with herself and she would like to look different. There might even be a deeper contradiction what is in the mirror and what she feels she is.  It is also true that random ill meaning comments press us down for years. Yet it might also be that she has time to analyze her own looks and develop a problem, namely her nose that needs to be fixed. The struggle she has with her identity and how to express herself is easier to comprehend. She lets Hermine to spend money and dress her like a doll with pretty clothes. She enjoys her new clothes and the look Hermine has created for her. But same time she has a need to express her masculine side too, a thing that Hermine doesn't approve. 

When Leduc writes about wartime she describes her love for money. It is said that in the most difficult times our true nature reveals. Violette is living in the countryside where there are possibilities to buy food outside the food card limitations. Because she has rich acquaintances in Paris she sees an opportunity to earn money in black market. She creates a circle of professionals who deliver her food and she sells it to people who can afford to buy it at any price. As she puts it it is in her nature that she loves beautiful objects. She becomes more greedy in her business and there is no Robin Hood in her. She makes money and keeps it herself. When she analyses afterwards the decisions she has made she doesn't explain or try to make things look better. She admits her own greediness. She even states that she would have eaten her own shit to get more money. There were situations when she could have done something good for others with her money, for example a poor boy is starving in front of her eyes and she had a possibility to help. She also looks from her window how her neighbors are taken away without an expression of sadness. She is in the flow of doing great herself and becomes blind. The years to come are harsh and remind cruelly about the past moments and it becomes impossible to understand one's own behavior. Maybe she has a bad consciousness, who knows, and that is why she wants to write it all down as a confession. Still I felt Leduc is not making an atonement she just reveals how things were and what she went through those times. And we can't know what kind of person the main character of the novel has become afterwards, we just know the past ans a glimpse of the present moment. 

What inspired me to read this novel was Martin Provost's film Violette that tells about how she became a writer and her one sided love towards her mentor Simone de Beuvoir. The title of this post is uncensored self portrait because the relationship she describes between Isabelle and Violette has also been written in her previous book, Thérèse et Isabelle, a novel that was partly censored at the time of publication in 1954.  This novel was not censored and what comes to her direct style she herself doesn't censor the issues she brings up.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Quilt: Orange Is the Rule Breaker

This time the quilting process has been a bit different. Usually I have a bunch of colours that seem to make an interesting combination. Now my colour palette was minimalist and I began to add more colour after I had already cut some elements from the fabric. 

It was several months ago, in the Spring when I was on one of my walks in the neighborhood. I spotted stairs that I have passed many times before only this time I saw how the stairs made graphic shadow to the wall. The pattern that the stairs and the shadow made (1.) was ready to be used in some project. In June I finally had a moment to draw the first sketch (4.). It still looked too complicated and lacked the final touch that would communicate an eye pleasing movement. Then there was the long and hot summer I just tried to survive. I wanted to make quilts but it was just too warm and the energies were low. Then just two weeks ago in the beginning of August I took the dust out of my water colours and began to make new sketches. First ones continued the same idea as I had in June but with colour the overall look was messy. Then it came to my mind that I could take one detail from the drawing. I had made a nice colour combination of four fabrics that looked new to me. I decided to narrow too many elements from the drawing to make it work for four colours.

Then one sketch (2.) spoke to me and I new the pattern was ready to be tested with fabric. Quite soon I noticed that the turquoise I had planned to use didn't work at all. I changed it for deep purple. The quilt began to look beautiful (3.). I liked it as it was. It would have worked fine with four colours. For example it would make a wonderful block for a blanket of 18 similar blocks. But because this is a cushion to be I wanted to add more layer. Round shapes turn the look completely. Harmony would have worked too but I think the orange challenges the eye and makes the pattern last time. With stitches this will look a playful rule breaker that promises harmony yet jumps in front of the eyes loudly.

Because every quilt should have a challenge that makes you want to look it again and think what it is about.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Grandeur and Art

Grandeur or sparkle is what Tove Jansson wished to have in her life. She was afraid of having mediocre and boring life. She worked hard to achieve her goals. Tove also considered thoroughly what she is ready to sacrifice for her artistic career and out of ordinary life. At times she thought how easy it would be just to enjoy what others have created instead of making art of one's own. But for a person who has a need to express that was not an option. Her decisions and struggles make her life story easy to relate for all of us who are wondering what life is about and how to become closer to our dreams what comes to both career and love.

32/52 Tuula Karjalainen: Tove Jansson. Tee työtä ja rakasta (2013) (the book has been translated to English as Tove Jansson. Work and love). Tove Jansson's world of creativity was like no other. In her lifetime she worked as a painter, cartoonist, and writer. After the first Moomin books she was in theater productions working to get Moomins on stage. She also took big commissions to paint wall frescoes. When she felt she was done with the Moomin books she wrote novels and short stories for adults. Somehow I felt that what she was most ambitious about was painting. How I understood what was told in the biography is that she wished she had more time and freedom to paint and develop her expression. Lack of money was one factor that made her make decisions that were against her deepest ambitions. I think no one has complete control over their life. We can't know where our decisions take us and what kind of bigger picture we are making in our lives. Also there might come happenings that change the whole course of our lives so that we can't say a thing. In Tove's lifetime there was the second world war that took the joy away from everyone. It also influenced on Tove's life stealing the colors from her palette for a long time. In the need for somewhere to hide from the ugly world she created the Moomin valley. At first Moomin creatures were dark and haunting but became something totally different over time. During the wartime the place Moomins lived was a place where catastrophes got a better ending than in the real world.

Nowadays Moomins are a big industry. It is challenging to get to know the person behind it all because of so many layers after Moomin's became a success. It is too easy to picture the whole person according to their lifework and the small steps Tove took through her life become invisible. This biography has lots of Tove's ponderings through her life. It was encouraging to read about the same insecurities and dreams of greatness every young artist has in the beginning of their career. She got through it all and created art that inspires us and the generations to come. A person who took part in so many projects, who tried various forms of art and who was also acknowledged in her lifetime had began from somewhere. She too has been afraid what kind of  critic her work might get. She didn't born as a great and respected artist. She had talent and didn't count hours in her days to learn the skills to become an artist. It is good to remember that all the creative work she did is sprinkled to the years of her long life, she didn't achieve all she wanted in her twenties. Even though she began her career early her first solo exhibition was as late as at the age of 30. The Moomins took their form about the same time and she developed the ideas in several books through her life. Tove didn't wish anything else than to be an artist and seeing all the projects she took part she must have had a different way of seeing the world. Reading this biography makes one see how the world is full of stimulants that inspire to create and play. There are many art forms we can try and learn and we don't have to stick with one. Tove had friends in different fields of culture with whom she made projects combining knowledge and boosting each others creativity and career.

Even when older and more acknowledged Tove had insecurities that made her work harder and become better.  I don't know where the ideal of confident and all the time successful artist has become. Is it a picture that has something to do with productive business world? World that is build on the thought that one has either gifts or not and finding the truth on which category you belong defines your place for the lifetime. In reality it is an inner decision and motivation that makes someone artist, and being an artist is a process that takes the whole life. For some success comes early for some after they have moved to the heavenly residence. If the permission and acceptance for artistic career was given by the merits from contemporaries and financial victories we would lose quite many world famous artists.

It is relieving for us introverts to have an example of a person who was not the loudest and most visible yet stood strongly behind her believes no matter what and made a huge influence to the world around her. She was not afraid to show her opinions even when the situations got unstable. In the wartime she draw covers to some Finnish Swedish magazines and was one of those few who dared to criticize both Stalin and Hitler. Knowing the atmosphere in a small country like Finland in the middle of war it has taken great bravery to draw pictures that represent Hitler and Stalin in a non flattering light. That work really shows a strong mind and brave artist who knew her values in the midst of turmoil. Now that I saw those pictures the reality of wartime was shown in a most realistic way. I had never seen that kind of illustrations from that time.

At the moment there has been talk about women's wages and how having a family might slower the career development for women and be one reason for lower wages. It was interesting to read that Tove pondered whether to have family when she was in the beginning of her career. She did wish for love but was uncertain about marriage and having children. She had seen too many examples were husband's career took the effort of the whole family and even though both in the couple were artists woman's career was the one to be set aside. Raising the children and keeping a household took a major part from woman's day and that time was away from personal career development and artistic work. Of course the attitude towards women's role in society has had a major change and it is seen as ideal that both parts in a relationship have equal possibilities and responsibilities. When she pondered about having children Tove also though about her freedom that she appreciated so much she felt impossible to let go. Even these days you might get criticized if you say out loud that you choose not to have children because you want to be free from that responsibility and concentrate on things you keep more important in your life. It should not be like that because it is everyone's own decision yet there is a very strong unwritten norm that anyone should want to have children. Decisions that feel natural are difficult to make if the atmosphere in society makes you doubt what you want.

What makes it encouraging and empowering to read about Tove's career, art and personal life was to get to know the difficulties and hardships she had. She wasn't offered the best of circumstances for her work and not all her works were successes. Her inner motivation and dreams took her from day to day. She dreamed about foreign lands, even made plans to move to Tonga and Morocco. Failures to fulfill her dreams were not failures in life because dreaming had it's place in harder times. Even though Tove knew many inspiring and interesting people in her life she still felt lonely at times. She doubted if it is possible to find someone with whom to share her life with and mutually support each others artistic development. She considered if career can give it all and whether she actually needs a person at her side at all. Quite many singles might have had the same thought: Maybe I became on island who needs no one and is completely self-sufficient. After all in Tove's life there was love too and she knew to go for it without hesitation. Everyone has their own schedule and frustration comes from comparing to others. She had relationships that didn't seem to take a form for future but she remained friends with her previous partners. She met Vivica in her thirties and thought that she would be her greatest love. Their love relationship ended yet they kept supporting each other's artistic career.  About ten years later she finally met the love of her life, Tuulikki, with whom she had half a century together. At times it must have felt lonely to wait to meet someone but in the end quite few get 50 years together. As a young artist she was afraid that in a relationship she would loose herself and her career. Maybe with a right person she didn't have to lose what she kept the most important, art. Because her order of priorities was always first work then love.

The biography written by Tuula Karjalainen is an inspiring read. It has rich illustration that represents Tove's artistic career and people around her. The biography opens what kind of time in the world Tove lived and how her career was formed from early age to her last years.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Shall We Start A New Season?

Or is it still a way too early? Even if Summer still holds it's appeal for few weeks it is the best time to shift thoughts towards the Autumn season. Seasonal calendar cleaning is great to do these days. All those great ideas that have been hanging out in the calendar without getting a closure are now re-evaluated. Even the fun ideas demand time and concentration. As a school kid it was nice to able to start from an empty table after Summer and Winter breaks. Now in adult life same kind of divisions do not exist. I did have some days of Summer holiday and still a week to come but tasks are waiting to be done after holiday, no-one cleans the table for me. It is not possible to get everything ready by a certain date because project entities are too big. 

Also too many ideas are adding the length to the to do lists. It would be wonderful to be that person who gets all ideas completed but reality has other plans. What comes to blogging there are always more ideas than time to process and create. This Autumn I cleaned my calendar, or Bullet Journal, from ideas that I have processed a little but who still demand lots of time. I wanted to have an empty table to think the coming season and come up with new thoughts and projects. It is more inspiring to make a new season mind map without old to dos. 

This also goes in other sectors of life. There are some things that need concentration. Larger projects that lead to something bigger. Those bigger projects form the core of professional and/or private life. Then there are those minor projects that come in plenty. Little ideas what one could hustle. Some of those just circle in mind some see day light. Those minor tasks can be re-evaluated and after that cleaned away or listed for future. What matters is the bigger picture that takes to somewhere. Days pass when details occupy the everyday life and it might be challenging to see what is necessary and what is not. Especially when there are busier times it helps to see the necessary tasks and what can be put aside. Otherwise it is impossible to have breaks and rest. Work doesn't end by doing. By listing and constructing bigger entities of smaller tasks it becomes easier to manage it all. When distractions are labelled as such it is possible to forget those and start completing a bigger project slice after slice and have breaks in between. 

I have always been an over achiever. I like to do more than is required and develop the work I am doing. Mostly it is good character but it also brought me a great lesson about the essence of work and life. I always tried to complete all when I got the tasks and of course it lead me to new and new projects to do. I began to forget my personal needs and always let go off everything fun if there was work to be done. It took years to understand that work exists in the world no matter how much you do it. But a human being has limitations. It is fun, inspiring and productive to work when work - free time balance is correct and one is well rested. As important as it is to have work whether paid or not it is equally important to acknowledge the meaning of free time. 

That is why going through what is filling your calendar is necessary. Processing what you are doing at the moment is a great way to start a new season. Also what comes to voluntarily accepted tasks, also known as ambitions, it can lead to better achievements if unnecessary projects are simply forgotten or listed to far future. One can ask what is it that I want to achieve with this activity? If this doesn't seem to lead to anything but filling the calendar how could I replace it? For example: Instead of circling around the same blog post ideas that don't seem to actualize, could I brainstorm brand new ideas. Those would more likely inspire more and become completed bringing the sense of joy and fulfillment. That is what I did with my blog on the step of Autumn. I consciously put away many projects to have room for new and fresh ones. 

One point is also to understand when a project is finished. I think fellow over achievers will relate to how difficult it is to let go. Weeks and months, sometimes even years are spent with a work project. It has been inspiring to study and bring up new angles and make the dear child even better. But when new tasks await these old dears can become a burden that require too much time when it would be more clever to concentrate on the new. There comes a day when the work is done and you have to spell it out loud to yourself. This is it, its is complete for now and it is as good as it gets. I love petting my projects. I am not sure if it is about my branch, as a social scientist there are always new perspectives to look everything and the most simple things become massive projects that won't be finished in one lifetime. 

So little time so interesting world. But these larger than life project entities can occupy the whole calendar and begin to press on free time too. One can't handle all the perspectives. When I read the news I see large issues that need to be studied to be able to understand the phenomenons better. It feels tiring not to be able to know the background of it all. But in the world we don't have to do it all by ourselves. And that goes to professional life too. We have to trust that our colleagues are doing their bit. No one needs to take the cape of a superhuman. It is respecting other people to let them do what they are best at. So one way to look at your calendar is to evaluate whether you have already done enough. It might also be that the task you took is not yours at all and you can pass it to someone else who has more to give to the subject.

Pictures taken in front of Korundi - House of Culture.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Humble Objects

Everyday objects hold so much beauty when you look closely. Like these old chopping boards, every mark on them is a note about life lived. Two of these are from thrift store so I can't say what kind of food these have served. But I could imagine that the round one has had several cheese platters in evening get togethers. Sharp knife has made it's marks on surface when blue cheese, brie, bread cheese etc. have been piled on top of crackers with marmalade. The other one looks more like it has been used to cutting strong onions when soups and sauces have been stirred to fill stomach on Mondays and Wednesdays. What comes to the big chopping board it has been in my own use. I bought it when I moved to my first own place. Apartment was in Helsinki and I had one room in a big grey house of blocks that was cold on winters. I read books and wrote uni essays under a blanket because otherwise I would have freezed. In these past 9 years I have cut lots of bread on it, minced a lorry of onions and sliced veggies and fruits. I have also grated chocolate to deserts and hammered cookies to make great bases for cakes. Past years it has every now and then worked as a surface where I have drilled some minor projects. It has worked well and been worth the money it cost (was it a package of two boards at a tenner?). So much everyday history in a humble object you might not actually even see when you use it. 

What would be the next stop for well used chopping board? To be used in the fireplace of cast to waste bin. I have no idea what has made worn out chopping boards so trendy that you can see these in every house if you browse an interiors magazine. Maybe it is part of the huge trend of wooden surfaces and natural look. We want to see authentic and used objects instead of glossy and sterile table tops that look like no one has ever used them. Life is allowed to show and it has become a matter of status to show that there is life outside the screens. That someone has luxurious time to mess around in their home preparing food. Maybe some of these status chopping boards have actually been bought as second hand to add that something to a home that lacks the natural shabbiness. 

Past weeks in many continents people have suffered from exceptional heat and the discussion about climate change has run equally hot. I presume that humble used objects will have a new deeper meaning soon. An apartment that has all new from table tops to sofas, carpets and porridge cups might not be something one wishes to show off. Second hand and upcycled items are forms to express that one knows the time we are living and respects the limits of nature. Objects that have become shabby in use are something to show with pride. We might start to compare how well we have used the stuff we have bought, how long it has lasted, how many times we have fixed it and how many years we have still to use it. Some upcycled items tell their former use in an interesting way. I think in the future upcycling is the new norm and we won't be able to tell whether an object is made out of upcycled material or not. Through creative eyes and skilled hands objects take a second form and become new again.

Repaired textiles used to be something to be ashamed of. Was it two years ago when repaired clothes became a fashion trend and patches were allowed to show? I have two design chairs I have bought from thrift store. Both had minor holes in the fabric and I repaired those. With careful inspection one can see that the chairs are not brand new. But both work well in their use and look great. Last year I visited famous Finnish design store Artek. What I saw in the stylish and beautifully curated store was old design chairs that had been painted in Finnish homes in past periods of time. Those chairs were on sale in the store among all new design furniture. It shows how objects that have been practical and beautiful when bought have not lost their value during the years they have seen. Years are allowed to show when the functionality is still the same. 

I have heard that wooden chopping boards are not used in professional kitchens because of food hygiene issues. At private homes these are practical and stand against time and knife for years. When too worn out we can lift these to the wall of fame in our kitchens and honor their part in our everyday life. Used board might take us back to the moments we have forgotten and to details of life we haven't even thought about. During that first year in my own place this chopping board did't see much knife. I mainly cooked noodles and soups that required hot water and not much else. After that I became more interested in preparing food and this board has experienced many flavors as I have tested new recipes and invented my own.

What is the story of you chopping board has to tell? Or if you just purchased a new one who knows what exciting adventures it has ahead! Art of everyday.

Inspiring wooden materials that are from thrift store. Except the one on right that has seen bread and drill as well as the early noodle period.

Sculptures how to: In the sculptures I made from my chopping boards I used metal sticks that were bought as second hand too. I sawed the biggest board to work as a stand, then drilled a hole for the metal stick. I attached the chopping board to it by drilling two pairs of very small holes to the board and then twining the board to the stick with wire. 

Wishing You the best of weeks!


Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Köyhät ritarit Goes Vegan

This week I wanted to try a vegan version from an old classic Köyhät ritarit. Köyhät ritarit is basically bun or white bread slices that are first soaked in milk or cream and then fried on a pan with butter to get beautiful golden brown surface. Some tend to make milk and egg mix but egg is not necessary. In the vegan version I just replaced the cream/milk with vegan oat milk and butter with margarine. I chose thicker milk that is meant for coffee because it's consistence is something between milk and cream. 

Fried buns are great with whipped cream, vanilla sauce or ice cream. Vegan versions are sold at least here in Finland in most of the bigger stores. Then some berries or jam and the end result is so delicious! Best part is that if you have buns or white bread that is beginning to get dry you can use those in this treat. Wonderful and tasty way to reduce food waste. I tend to make a bigger amount of cinnamon buns and then put some to the freezer. From there I can take good cinnamon buns to eat as such or use in some other dishes like in Köyhät ritarit.  I will put the cinnamon bun recipe to the end of the post, so you can make good buns to your freezer too!

Köyhät ritarit

cinnamon buns/ white bread
1 1/2 dl thick oat milk
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar
 vegan vanilla sauce/ ice cream/ whipped cream
berries like raspberries and blueberries

1. Slice the buns or bread. Mix together oat milk and vanilla sugar. Soak the buns in milk so they get moist.
2. Fry the buns in margarine from both sides until golden brown.
3. Serve with berries and vanilla sauce. 

Vegan Finnish Cinnamon buns

1 L oatmilk 
250 g + 50 g margarine
2 dl sugar
1 tsp salt
8 g cardamom
50 g yeast
about 2 kg wheat flour

farine sugar + water

Step 1. Mix salt and yeast to a paste. Add sugar, salt and medium warm milk. Mix.

Step 2. Add 250 g soft margarine. Start adding flour little by little. When the pastry begins to be too thick to mix with a spoon start working with your hand. Add flour little by little, like you would make a bread. When the pastry doesn't stick to your fingers anymore you can let the pastry rest for 45 minutes covered with a towel.

Step 3. When the pastry is about twice the size you can start making buns. Make simple round buns with no cinnamon or make cinnamon buns as follows: Take a bigger piece from the pastry. Put some flour to the table and roll out the pastry to 0,5-1 cm. Apply warm margarine all over the pastry. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of the margarine. Roll the pastry and cut buns from it.

Step 4. Let the buns rest 30 minutes. Preheat the oven 225 Celsius degrees. Mix together water and farine sugar to make liquid that you can use to brush the buns. Sprinkle some almond flakes on top. Bake buns about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Delicious summer week to you all!


Sunday, 22 July 2018

Greetings from Helsinki!

At the moment I am back in Rovaniemi but week ago this time I was still in Helsinki. I tend to make at least one visit to southern Finland every year. I visit my friends and explore bigger towns of Finland. If I am honest sometimes I miss living in a city. I love having more stimulus for creativity: beautiful buildings, parks, museums, cultural events and people. Of course we have all that here in Lapland and Rovaniemi too but in a minor scale. And yes, we have a wonderful and inspiring nature here and that is one of the factors why I live up here. But there are many good sides living in southern Finland too. The distances between towns are shorter than here in Lapland. It is easy to go for a day trip to another town, go to an event and visit the local museums. The bus tickets are also a way cheaper. In Helsinki only there are more art exhibitions than one can go through in a day or two or three. This time I saw for example interesting graffiti exhibition at Helsinki Art Museum - HAM and Grayson Perry, Maija Luutonen and There and Back Again exhibitions at Kiasma. In both museums there were so much to see I could have spent a day in one museum only. 

I enjoyed walking the streets and seeing places I don't see on a daily basis. It is exciting not to know what scenery waits behind the corner. I don't like that much shopping these days because I am looking for some other meaning to my life than just merely buying new stuff all the time. Yet sometimes I feel it would be inspiring to go and see what is on trend, to see beautiful displays on shop windows and to have shops and collections to choose from. In the city there are more alternatives, something for everyone what comes to consumerism, culture and social circles. 

There are seasons when I honestly think about moving to Helsinki or outside Finland to a bigger city. So many things I miss and would like to have in my life. So many opportunities I think that might wait me in there and not here. But so far I have decided to stay. Because I mostly like the everyday life in here and because moving once again feels like tearing off the roots. It takes years to plant oneself to a new place. And leaving alone to place where you practically know no one demands energy to be extra social, to participate and learn the rhythm. In some days that is exactly what I feel I need, to meet more people, talk to strangers and make new friends. I have noticed that in the city I actually talk more to the strangers. Is it that there is the possibility to get a new friend but also the fact that you most likely won't see that person ever again so there is only to win? I know loneliness is a problem in cities too, people not finding friends and getting lost. But still I feel fascinated by the chance that there are events and activities for every day that gather people and give a social space. 

Having lived most of my life in southern Finland I am realistic and know that quite soon the fascination will fade and everyday life will take place. I know what are the major things I don't like and I know what I would miss if I left Rovaniemi. Still there is a chance that some day I might live somewhere else. Where that would be is yet unknown.

I took the pictures with my phone because I didn't take my camera with me this time.