It was the first time I had stepped foot in a Marimekko store. The discovery of the store was just as fantastical—’twas a cold evening in winter wraps, on my first trip to Tokyo, having wandered though the back lanes of Aoyama, and then finding the store at a cul-de-sac. It was a moment akin to Hansel and Gretal gleaming at the sight of a candy house. My inner pattern-girl could not be contained. Time was short; we had to return to meet the group. I had to buy something. After a few hurried moments of scanning the store, sieving the options in quick time, my first Marimekko item was chosen—a metal lunchbox set of Maija Louekari’s Pikkupakkanen bird print with a linen towel and two porcelain cups inside. The cups are now my everyday cups (you know everyday cups, the ones you pick to drink everything in).
And so when Marimekko opened its first store in Singapore, I made a pilgrimage. There, Aino-Maija Metsola’s Weather Diary collection stood out from the sea of more graphical, poppy patterns stamped on the other tableware. Washes of canary yellow and the colour of autumn and apricots broken by a white flash like a sudden ray of sun; shades of grass and yellow that bleed into each other like the sunset and the earth; cobalt and denim clouds with blue strings of rain that make like jellyfish dancing in a storm. The collection is a potpourri of shadows, liquid, and the changing of mother earth’s temperament. If a pattern can make one feel contemplative, dreamy, moody or wistful—the rambling train-of-thought-type—this one does. What a nice view at breakfast or supper when you are having a secret snack by the orange light from inside the refrigerator doors at midnight.
We were so inspired we decided to ask Aino-Maija some questions on her design journey and the Weather Diary collection. The lovely lady kindly shared with us some besotting mood images that inspired the collection.
Please share about how you came to be an illustrator and graphic designer. Were there any particular influences in your youth?
I always loved drawing and as a child becoming an artist was my dream. I remember my family was always very supportive and I had many nice art teachers while growing up, so I think I always thought art as a profession was quite a realistic goal. After high school I wondered what to study and decided to apply for graphic design studies at the University of Art and design Helsinki. I don’t know exactly why I chose that path, probably it was just because it seemed like a more sensible decision than studying painting, for example. In the beginning of my career I did more graphic design but I was always more passionate about illustration and nowadays graphic design mostly supports my illustration projects.
Can you describe the inspirations and design processes behind the Weather Diary collection for Marimekko?
In the beginning of 2012 I met Marimekko’s design team and we talked about our ideas and inspirations. It turned out that many of us were interested in weather as during the previous fall and winter the weathers had not been very typical in Finland; for example, we had seen some heavy storms (images above). We decided to build a collection around this theme. I was to design the prints for the collection and Sami Ruotsalainen started to work on the shapes for tableware. I painted piles of sketches at my home studio and met with Sami and rest of the design team several times to discuss. It was quite a long and very interesting design process and gradually during the months each print found its place on tableware, fabric, kitchen products, posters, etc.
What are the key considerations for translating the print onto different products—for example, the fabric versus the tableware?
When I start to design a print I simply try to imagine how the product will be used. If it’s a fabric, is it for clothes of for interior? Who will use it? Will it be cut a lot or draped, for example? Everything affects but I try to keep the design process quite intuitive, so I don’t constantly analyse. I have noticed it’s the best way of working for me. I really love designing interior fabrics as it allows you to play with the size of the print. When designing a print for a more three-dimensional object like a coffee cup for example, it’s important to pay attention to how the print looks from every angle. In tableware I have found out that the biggest challenge for me is to make the print work with the printing technique that is used. Nowadays the colours for ceramics are much less harmful for the environment than before, which is of course very good, but because of this the colour palette is so much more limited than in fabrics.
The Weather Diary collection is moody and abstract compared to a design like your Huhuli pattern with its fantastical print of foxes, birds, bears and bunnies in a woodland dreamscape. What are the particular joys and challenges in designing these different types of prints? Also, both are for Marimekko, so what do you consider about the Marimekko DNA when you are designing for the brand?
I have never thought of it as a challenge to design different kind of prints; it’s just fun and interesting. I think for me these different styles come quite naturally as I love to explore and I’m not so interested in defining my style. When designing for Marimekko it has been very nice that the brand has been open for ideas and they haven’t been expecting just one kind of prints from me. Instead they have been interested to see what I come up with. As I have been designing for Marimekko since 2006 I have developed as a designer during this time and my style and methods have formed in close connection with my work for Marimekko. So nowadays I don’t think almost at all about Marimekko DNA while working.
What is your favourite kind of weather?
I like foggy weather a lot as it creates a unique atmosphere. I also like the weather after summer rain.
Please continue this sentence: Play to me is:
Imagination and curiosity
+ images courtesy of Aino-Maija Metsola