The Arabia Art Department Society was established in 2003 by former Arabia Artists.
These Artists now work as freelancers who cherish and are continuing the Arabia Art Department’s cultural heritage.
The Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C. has invited the Arabia Art Department Society in Finland to organise a ceramic exhibition at the Embassy's Finlandia Hall fall 2015. The 9 SEASONS exhibition presents nine aspects of art and ceramics.
In the 1960s, Professor Heljä Liukko-Sundström (born in 1938) was an inquisitive young artist exploring a large ceramic factory surrounded by endless possibilities. Captivated by the beauty of liquid clay, she quickly created an artistic voice of her own. Heljä was soon invited to join the Arabia Art Department on the ninth floor, also known as the Heaven of Ceramics. She reminisces about the artists who worked there, a wonderful set of characters who viewed the world through the eyes of a child. Heljä emphasises that, although the material was the same, each artist had a unique style. “I wish I could bring them back to life,” she says.
Through her countless ceramic stories, she has done just that. Heljä Liukko-Sundström has always wanted to combine words with clay. Her tales drawn on
ceramic tiles have been published in 11 books, some of which have been translated into Japanese and Hungarian. Both her work and books have taken
her abroad for exhibitions and shows in New York, Bristol and Tokyo, to mention just a few venues.
Award-winning Heljä Liukko-Sundström is one of Finland’s best-known ceramic artists and a founder member of the Arabia Art Department Society.
Professor Heikki Orvola (born in 1943) is a highly rated Finnish designer and artist with knowledge of a range of materials. He is a master of form, who understands the controlled environment of the industry and can bend it in line with his imagination. Orvola has designed several classics for industrial production, ceramics for Arabia, glass for Nuutajärvi and Iittala and textiles for Marimekko. He has also collaborated with ALESSI, Museo Bagatti Valsecchi in Milan and the Iwate Industrial Research Institute in Japan. Orvola is an Honorary Member of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Switching from one material to another requires skill and flexibility. Production techniques vary greatly. Design for industrial production requires control and planning. With ceramics, everything is slow and takes time, but glass blowing is fast and unpredictable, since the material has a will of its own. Cooperation between artist and glass blower must be seamless. Although knowledge grows with time, vision is innate.
The award-winning Heikki Orvola has been both an inhouse and freelancer designer. The opportunity to work with other designers and artists such as Professors Kaj Franck and Oiva Toikka in Nuutajärvi, and with the artists of the Arabia Art Department, has offered a welcomed creative connection. Yet he also has a longing for silence and solitude, which is possible to achieve through embroidery work. While embroidering, the artist can control all aspects of his work while also liberating himself from it.
Everything begins with a line. Sometimes this involves no more than the flick of a brush, which at other times moves delicately from one petal to another. Repetition is the key. Recreate the material all over again.
Fujiwo Ishimoto (born in 1941 in Ehime, Japan) graduated as a graphic designer from the Tokyo National University of Art. After graduating, he worked as a graphic designer in a Japanese company selling Kimonos. Following a trip around the world in 1970, Fujiwo came to Finland, fell in love with the Finnish spring and couldn't move back to Japan.
The esteemed and award-winning Fujiwo Ishimoto has had a long career with the Finnish textile company Marimekko. Although he spent his childhood in a village known for its ceramics, he began to delve into the possibilities of clay only in the late 1980s, when he was given a studio in the Arabia Art Department. First came bowls, then ceramic bamboo and the surrounding landscape, many of which formed part of the Arabia brand's Pro Arte Collections. But it is the theme of the flower that inspires Fujiwo over and over again. It is captivating to watch how the artist conducts his blooming orchestra, a flower garden festooned with colour.
Who wears bright nail polish, deep-red lipstick and long, long eyelashes? The first image that comes to mind would probably not be a ceramic figure, yet such are the odd creatures sculpted by young Finnish artist Jasmin Anoschkin (born in 1980), the newest addition to the Arabia Art Department Society. Jasmin’s work continuously alludes to pop culture, sometimes making references to the Western toy industry, or presenting dunkheap ladies who, by carrying their precious loads, have become landfill themselves.
Besides ceramics, Jasmin creates wooden sculptures and drawings. She sculpts wood in her home studio and ceramics at the Art Department. Her richly expressive sculptures start out in a plain shade of clay. She then picks colours from the ceramic factory's laboratory established in 1922. From a colour palette of over 20,000 different glazes, Jasmin carefully selects the right colours for a Platypus eating a lollipop, for creatures waiting in a cake line, and for a Soap Bubble Buddy. Each of these has a story to tell – although they look amusing at first glance, they reveal much about the world around us.
Kim Simonsson (born in 1974) almost became a soccer player but, while biking to a practice one day, lost his football boots and decided to become an artist. Kim entered the Department of Ceramic and Glass at the University of Arts & Design and was thereafter captivated by the three-dimensional possibilities of clay. Since Kim was a small boy his hands could transform materials into a variety of forms. While other children were building snowmen, he sculpted a snowy Donald Duck.
After graduating, Kim lived in Canada for three years before returning to Finland in 2004, when he was awarded the Young Artist of the Year prize. In the same year he was invited to work for the Arabia Art Department Society, initially as a guest artist. His room was soon filled with life-sized children and animals, just as the room of sculptor Michael Schilkin, one of the first artists to work at the factory, had been. Kim Simonsson also works in his home studio located in the Fiskars Village, the birthplace of the famous orange scissors and nowadays known for its creative cooperative, ONOMA. Kim Simonsson has displayed his works in private exhibitions all over the world, in cities such as New York, Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki.
Hundreds of sheets of paper with silkscreen printed designs are piled in a tray rack in the studio of Heini Riitahuhta (born in 1975). Her original hand-drawn motifs can be found on her table. Heini veils her ceramic pieces with Finnish flora blended with the results of her imagination. Her decors thrive in works of art and products designed for the Arabia brand. This ceramic artist is enchantedby seasonal variations. Heini has designed the Runo (Poem 2009) series for Arabia, in which four seasons meander from one dish to another. Despite the Finnish summer being Heini's favourite season, in her previous works she has been inspired by the melancholy winter. During this period, her imagination has been filled with effervescent frost flowers and their gauze-like, delicate structures.
In her art and design, Heini combines a range of decoration techniques which the ceramic factory has used over time, consisting of hand painting, silkscreen printing and colouring with glazes. Layers of decorations create the feeling that you can dive into the decor. It fills you with the sense that it is in beautiful harmony with the glazed surface. Ceramic hexagons create a fascinating composition that grows piece by piece, containing a tiny cosmos in each of numberless fragments which, when taken together, form an expanding universe.
Alongside her studio work at the Arabia Art Department, Heini works on design projects based on a range of materials such as enamelware and textiles in Finland and Japan. She cooperates with brands such as Isetan Shinjuku, Scope, Actus, Kotonowa Furoshiki Kyoto, Kaico and Lapuan Kankurit. In 2013, her monumental artwork Arabia Flower was displayed on the Arabianranta shoreline, close to the ceramic factory in Helsinki.
Clay requires patience. It needs time to dry, to fire and plenty of time in between. Ceramic artist and designer Pekka Paikkari (born in 1960) knows a great deal about such time, which has become the concept underlying his creative activities. The story lies in the fracture. “Clay is a highly versatile material that already contains the history of time. In my work, clay performs on its own terms as a material. The long path towards mastering a complex process has brought me back round to the personal necessity of leaving the material in its simplest form.”
This award-winning artist has worked with both small-scale and large-scale pieces, alongside industry and with nature itself. His remarkable public works are made to endure the hard Finnish winter. His most fragile but extremely powerful works, such as the Marl Hole in England, have disappeared as rapidly as they were made. The dialogue between the piece and the space it occupies becomes the key issue, a union that is fulfilled by the presence of the viewer. Lately, Paikkari has been cooperating with Finnish restaurants, bringing ceramic art into their activities. Paikkari has taken part in the Bocuse d'Or Competition alongside chef Matti Jämsen. The meat dish that Paikkari designed and created for Jämsen won first prize. Paikkari's works are well known within the field of ceramics, based on private and group exhibitions held all over the world.
Nine chairs, several decades, hundreds of stories.
The esteemed and award-winning designer and ceramic artist Kati Tuominen-Niittylä (born in 1947) has divided her studio in two. On the left wall you will find industrial design, while the other wall bears unique artwork. The room is filled with the artist’s presence, running from one object to another. “Clay is a formless material. Artists have the freedom and responsibility to give their thoughts a material form.” Kati continues this line of thought – “Form is a result of thinking, but colours are feeling.” Kati's unique pieces are often given earthly shades inspired by the nature.
Kati is charmed by universal forms, archetypes and the movement of a circle. Circling the material layer-by-layer, she hand-builds her art, sometimes bending form like a bow.
When you enter Kristina Riska’s (born in 1960) studio, a woman looks you in the eye from among her large ceramic sculptures. When she ponders the concept of beauty, she walks a thin line between the beautiful and the ugly, forcing them into contradistinction with each other. She finds the most interesting path based on a search for balance. The artist’s state of mind mirrors Finland’s harsh natural conditions, with greyness and graveness dominating the scenery for most of the year. On the other hand, through time Kristina has learned to leave more space for sensibility. “I’ve lightened up on the level of seriousness, I don’t have to know what the piece will become, I don’t have to cover up what I am doing”.
The surfaces of Kristina Riska’s pieces are structured with a glaze and texture. She leaves the interior of her sculptures untouched after her fingers have circled the clay countless times in order to create its form. At first, the unglazed interior seems silent but you can sense the touch of the artist, her presence in the pressed ceramics. This award-winning artist has held private and joint exhibitions all over the world, most recently at the Hostler Burrows Gallery in NYC.
The Arabia Art Department Society will organise a Futureware project for year four students in schools around Finland during the 100th anniversary year of Finnish independence. The project will be carried out in cooperation with art teachers in the schools and the workshops will be integrated into the normal curriculum in spring 2017. In art classes, children can paint or draw their own visions of the essential objects of the future.
Objects of the future – Futureware – can also be created as a joint work by the whole class. Children will also be encouraged to learn more about ceramics and explore it as a material in other subjects. This ancient material dates far back into history, having served people for thousands of years.
Today, however, this eternal material is used in a wide range of contexts: in space technology, toothpastes and frying pans, as well as tableware.
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