In Helsinki I met Maria Tolvanen, a textile designer from Finland. We sat in her kitchen and it felt like we were surrounded by patterns. The fabrics, the dishes, the carpet, the decoration, I suddenly saw everything figured.
And seriously; the cups we drank from were from marimekko, a Finnish pattern company. Although the country is famous for craft and design, Maria told me they had just closed down the studies for textile design and fused it with fashion design. She was probably the last student to finish university with that specialization.
“Though it’s my passion, I don’t want to sacrifice everything.”
After her studies, Maria decided to stay independent from the usual job structure, with long working hours and little money. “Though it’s my passion, I don’t want to sacrifice everything.”
She presents some of her work at the pattern bank “patterns from”and also crafts illustrations and design for other occasions. For example she created a sea-cucumbre-costume out of kitchen sponges for a dance performances.
“All I want to do now is to paint, draw and cut out papers.”
Her final project for the university was dedicated to fair trade design. She built up a concept to integrate contemporary design with the fair trade ideology.
She wanted to come up with a design, that would be favored by people that usually weren’t attracted by the aesthetic of fair trade products. For her research she not only made various designs, based on traditional patterns and nature motives; She even traveled to Bolivia for a couple of weeks to visit the traditional weavers, who were in charge of the production.
Caring for these kind of topics has become her thing. Although she is thinking about doing a master and getting into theoretical work more, for now she wants to work things out first. “All I want to do now is paint, draw and cut out papers.”
Although she said that she’s not used to be creative at the push of the button, she faced the challenge and watched the audio-visual work from Jayson Rohde from Tampere.
The underwater recordings, the colors and the soundscapes inspired Maria to continue the water topic. She told me that she gets most of her inspiration from childhood memories, or experiences that pop up when she is working on something.
“I am a color-person.”
What instantly came to her mind was a certain color. The color of the ocean, a bright turquoise, like at exotic beaches or, as she remembers, as in an old movie she had watched some time ago. “I am a color-person.”
Because she usually needs time to design a complete pattern, Maria decided to reproduce only the color during our session. She would create the exact version of turquoise that she found in her memory.
For the realization she digged out some dry crumbles of Gouache-paint. She mixed the blue and yellow pigments and produced a palette of tones. She painted several fields of blue-green next to each other on a sheet of paper and let it dry to see the final effect of the colors in a dry state.
Then she would put another layer on top, driving it further in the right direction.
“At some point you gotta let it go.”
After many layers and drying-breaks, Maria was nearly happy with the result. The spots on the paper now showed slightly different shades of emerald green, laying next to each other like reflections of the deep green seashore.
We both agreed that we liked the side product even better, the palette on which Maria had mixed the colors on. Sometimes it’s the side products that trigger the creativity, challenge you to “create something from something.” Maria concluded. “Jade” she titled her color draft.
I wondered how you could make sure that the design you make and the colors you put a lot of effort in, could be reproduced exactly the same way. “At some point you gotta let it go. You can’t make sure, that the colors look exactly the same.” Maria explained to me.
And then she let go her jade-green to be given to the next artist on my way.