Rug making and the meaning of Home

My sudden interest in textile art/rug making/fabric design may seem completely random when considering my other work, so I figured it would be worth a post exploring some of the connections. 

You see, it really isn’t random at all. Growing up as a second generation third-culture kid has meant that I have done a lot of self exploration around what the meaning of “home” is. It is also a recurring theme in much of my work. I know what it feels like to perpetually live in between worlds, to be Finnish yet not speak the language, to have an American passport yet be totally unfamiliar with the experience of growing up in this country. My parents still live in the house where I grew up in the Netherlands, and I have now lived in Alaska for almost 7 years. When I speak of home I may be referring to any one of these places! 

Making sense of “home” means many things to me. Living in Alaska and making this place one of my homes means also being engaged politically, and actively using my privilege and skills to support the issues that impact my community here. It means learning what it means to be in right relationship with this land and the people who have stewarded this land since time immemorial. It means showing up in every way that I can as an activist and community organizer.

Home also means the physical place that I inhabit, which I tend to fill with objects, patterns and textiles that remind me of my other homes. The ceramic blue plate painted with a windmill that reminds me of the Netherlands. The Moomin cups and Marimekko fabrics that appear in almost every Finnish household. I may feel somewhat "foreign" wherever I live, however my home is a collection of things that make me feel comfortable and whole.

I have a tapestry hanging on my wall that I remember loving all my life and that my mom gave to me this last Christmas. It was made by an artist called Armi Salonius Sammatti. It is a simple tapestry featuring lines that evoke the shapes of land and water - the shapes of the islands of the Finnish archipelago where me and my family come from. How I love that tapestry! Thinking about being back on the islands and walking through the forests of Finland picking berries or searching for mushrooms makes a painful lump form in my throat and brings tears to my eyes. I miss that place with my whole body. It’s amazing what a simple tapestry can make me feel.

When it comes to textile design in general, I immediately think of the Finnish designers that have inspired me and surrounded me throughout my life - Armi Ratia, Maija Isola and other designers of Marimekko, as well as brands such as Finlayson, Pentik and Iitala, among many others.

Marimekko in particular is a really interesting brand to me. Founded by Armi Ratia, it is synonymous with bold prints and bright colors, and you can almost always find something from Marimekko in a Finnish home. Like many families, including my own, Armi's family was heavily impacted by the Winter and Second World Wars. Her and her husband lost all of their possessions when Karelia was annexed by Russia. In her own words, "Finland, which was depressing during and immediately after the war, needed some brightness". Armi went on to build an internationally famous brand that not only embodies that optimism and hope for a better world, but also really "walks the talk" when it comes to sustainability and the well-being of their people. If you want to read more, I highly recommend the newly released book "Marimekko: The Art of Printmaking", by Laird Borrelli-Persson. 

I really resonate with Armi's goal of creating things that bring joy and hope into our lives. While it is easy to just regard the items in our homes as decorative, or even frivolous, I do believe that what we put in our homes, how we design and decorate these spaces, have a big impact on the way that we feel in general. It isn't surprising that it is during the darkest time of the year, when I really crave warmth and brightness that I have started to make bright and bold rugs - to literally bring warmth and brightness into my life, and hopefully yours too!

And while I have only been publicly sharing my art for the past three years or so, I also want to embrace the fact that I'm still in a phase of experimenting. While my printmaking has allowed me to develop my line work, my digital art has allowed me to develop my color palette, I am curious to see where this new journey into textiles takes me. Thanks for joining me!


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