Designer Mari Isopahkala // fresh whirlwind from the Milan Design Week

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: COULD YOU TELL A GREAT STORY FROM MILAN, AN ENCOUNTER, HOW WAS IT LIKE THIS TIME?
Mari Isopahkala: It was overall a great trip, although these design exhibition weeks are sometimes heavy. Meeting different people and professionals is very interesting and gives you back a lot. As I had to be standing a lot, and walk around long distances between the exhibit places, I kept changing my shoes to feel more comfortable. I got few great contacts. It will be exiting to see what these new things will bring me in the near future.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU ATTENDED MILAN DESIGN WEEK?

Mari Isopahkala: Many times, I have not even counted. Not every single year during my active working years, but almost. It is already a very familiar place to me.
 
 
(Designer Mari Isopahkala with a ruffle carpet, 2009. Capture: Liisa Valonen. Above: Kristallit small glasses, Konkkaronkka cutlery for Marimekko, designed by Mari Isopahkala)
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: WHEN YOU WERE IN NEW YORK TWO YEARS AGO, WHAT DID THE CITY OFFER?

Mari Isopahkala: It was good to see what the industry is like in North America. What are the current trends there, who are participating in those trends, and so forth. New York City is definitely quite different from the North Europe. Commercialism and business are in a higher level in the North American marketplace. What I can say about Finland is that we tend to be not so good in selling and marketing. I still have so much to learn about it, and even about how to brand my products. What I admired in New York City was the openness of people, how they have positive energy and courage. They also seemed to be forward thinking.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your design-language is very poetic, and perhaps minimalistic (or is this a stereotypy that is often attached to Scandinavian design?). In any event, how would you describe your designing?

Mari Isopahkala: Thank you, poetic is very beautifully put. Well, I would not consider minimalism as a stereotypical thing in the Nordic design. I think that minimalism comes so naturally. We are living that type of lifestyle, and it shows in the designs, which is unpretentious. This notion contains our products and our environment. I would describe my own design-language as clear, and yet personal. It does not shout too loud, yet it does not leave you cold. I hope that my designs are attractive as well. My products have some Ostrobothnian (Finnish) femininity in them. They comply strength, and also sensitivity.  

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: It is simply amazing that you are so diverse as a designer, you have interior design, jewellery, everyday objects, unique industrial design pieces, lighting design, and so on. Is there a design, which is closer to you personally and why?  

Mari Isopahkala: Yes, I like to do different things. It keeps my mind open and fresh, and very much helps to discover new things. When I look at the ideas from outside, I have to learn new things. This creates newness and innovation. I enjoy working together with skilled craftsmen from different industries. I have a huge respect for artisan’s skills.  If I had to pick one material, it would be glass. I am so intrigued by the practice in glass factories. It is hypnotic to watch the melting glass. It feels almost sensational.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Can you name a few of your mentors and inspirations, Finnish and international? 

Mari Isopahkala: I have many inspirations in art, design, and in the everyday life. I have not been following anyone’s path really, but I have been gaining inspiration from many great masters in the past and in the present. The environment where I live inspires me tremendously.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How would you describe the essence of nature in your designs, the Finnish nature-urban dynamics? What comes to mind also is the Nordic nature with mythological traces, how it can be present in our consciousness. Is there room for utopia in your designs?

Mari Isopahkala: Nature is so important part of my life and that way it probably shows in my designs. It is not an absolute value but it is present. I have tried also other ‘domains’, and any kinds of oppositions interest me. I think I question existing myths in a good way. There is of course room for utopias in my designs. I have a need to move things forward towards the unknown paths.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Can design be masculine and feminine?

Mari Isopahkala: Good designer can utilize both, and then be without specificity of these qualities. Doing feminine or masculine design can be a conscious choice. I am very aware of my own choices. And I have used both of these two qualities. So I am trying my best.    

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are your future plans?  

Mari Isopahkala: There are many things, some of the plans are still in the air, so to speak, some on the other hand are in the process. Right now I have worked so hard that its time to start planning the summer. I believe that once you get some rest you gain new perspectives. Then it is also time to make next big decisions. 
1. greenhouse light, 2. viikari light in space, 3. viikari basis, 4. no jaa big sculpted light
5. furing jewellery, 6. winter pearl jewellery, 7. suma fiilis jewellery set,  8. kristallit fat glass

Artist Interview: Heino Schmid

Heino Schmid is an artist living and working in Nassau, Bahamas. He completed his MA in Fine Arts at the Utrecht School of the Arts in The Netherlands, and got his BFA degree in Photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia, US. Heino Schmid participated at the VOLTA NY Show with Nassau-based Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts in March 2013.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You were born in Bahamas, how did that build your artist identity?

HS: My father is German and my mother is Bahamian but I was born and raised in the Bahamas where I’ve lived my whole life outside of my education. I did my undergraduate studies in the US and my graduate studies in The Netherlands. My artistic identity is very much rooted in my experiences here and I find a great deal of fodder and inspiration in my immediate environment. As a country The Bahamas really lends itself to a lot of material investigation and I’ve really enjoyed having my studio and my creative practice based here. It’s close enough to the US where I am still able to see significant exhibitions but it’s private enough for me to develop a body of work on my own terms.


Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What does globalization mean to you?

HS: Globalization, in terms of the creative process, means communication. Through social media it’s never been easier to have constructive conversations with your peers and that is really exciting. The Internet also levels the playing field in terms of information. It’s a wonderful time to be a creative thinker because there’s so much information available, which I can filter at my own pace and discretion to construct a viable practice.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you experience VOLTA, what did it offer you personally?

HS: The VOLTA NY experience was extremely constructive to me. I believe that as an artist you initially control the medium of the work, the content, the presentation and the context of the work, but the context is the most fluid and gives your work life. It was hugely exciting for me to take my work out of the context in which it was made and place it in an environment where the dialogue would be completely different. The conversations that I had at VOLTA NY were constructive, positive and completely impossible to have, I think, in The Bahamas given the change of context.

HEINO SCHMID, Mixed media on paper with painted coconuts, 45 x 45 in, 2003/2013.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Where is your focus as an artist, the media and the location?

HS: As an artist I try to really approach art in itself as a visual dialogue so the media and the location hold equal sway in the production of my projects. The balance between media and location is always an interesting problem to solve. On the one hand you want to stay open to your environment you’re in no matter where you are to produce work, and on the other hand you want to make the work that’s relevant to your own practice in a sustainable way. When considered responsibly I think the tension between the two is always an exciting and productive challenge to embrace.