The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum recently kicked off “Design by Hand,” a new series focused on the craftsmanship, innovations, and merits of contemporary global designers, with an evening that spotlighted Marimekko. We sent writer Nancy Lazarus to get an inside look at the Finnish design house, renowned for its original prints and colors.
Marimekko’s Jussarö cotton fabric, designed by Aino-Maija Metsola, is part of the Helsinki-based company’s new Weather Diary collection. Below, Sami Ruotsalainen’s teapot uses the Räsymatto pattern designed by Maija Louekari.
While the name Marimekko is based on “Mari” a girl’s name, and “mekko,” the Finnish word for dress, to its legions of worldwide fans it stands for fond memories and cheery graphic prints. The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum recently hosted an event featuring three Marimekko designers: fashion and textile designer Mika Piirainen, ceramics and product designer Sami Ruotsalainen, and print designer Aino-Maija Metsola. While each designer offered a unique insider’s perspective, selected themes surfaced that shed light on the brand’s impressive longevity:
Potpourri of patterns: “While Marimekko is known for bold designs, it’s not all about massive prints, it’s also about contrasts,” Piirainen said. “We’re crazy about dots, and circles are the friendliest shapes in the world. We’re crazy about stripes, too,” he added. Flowers and their textures are also popular motifs, even black and white solids. Recently these designers have also turned their focus to smaller prints.
Individual inspirations and influences: “It’s important that inspirations for products are close to you so people know there are emotions behind them,” Metsola said. Finland’s islands in the archipelago, seasonal weather patterns, and vegetation form the basis of much of her work, such as her “Weather Diary” aquarelles or “Midsummer Magic” collections. Piirainen is also influenced by nature, and takes photos during his travels to Lapland and Australia. For Ruotsalainen, food and items of everyday life impact his designs.