To celebrate the 100 year anniversary of diplomatic relations between Finland and Japan, Artek is bringing the two cultures together in a creative dialogue for their new collection launching at Milan Design Week, the FIN/JPN Friendship Collection.
In partnership with leading Japanese and Finnish designers, architects, and craftsmen, the collection highlights the similarities between the two countries and their approach to design: an affinity and reverence for nature, craftsmanship, and a visual language focused on the essentials. Comprised of new iterations of classic Artek products and original designs, the collection will be on view at the Brera Design District this week.
Jo Nagasaka applies his experimental ColoRing surface treatment—drawing on the age-old Japanese practice of Udukuri, a technique of polishing wood with a brush made of sew grass—to Aalto's classic Stool 60, Bench 153B and Tea Trolley 901. The results bring surprising color combinations and one-of-a-kind irregular patterns to the iconic Artek pieces.
The Helsinki-based Finnish-Korean design duo COMPANY created a series of tabletop ceramics inspired by the gifts the Finnish delegation might have brought to Japan back in 1919 when diplomatic relations between the countries were established. The seven-piece collection includes decorative yet functional ceramics like candle holders, vases, and a piggy-bank inspired by an old Finnish tradition of placing a wooden statue of a pauper outside a church to collect money for the poor.
Inspired by the public bathing cultures of Finland and Japan, architect and designer Koichi Futatsumata designed the versatile Kiulu Bench. The origin of his design is the cylindrically shaped bucket—Kiulu in Finnish—which is traditionally used in the public baths of both countries. His design works as both a seat and a storage basket and will be available in two sizes and three colorways.
Artek also partnered with indigo-dye specialist BUAISOU from the Tokushima prefecture to create a new version of Stool 60. Employing a technique known as "Jigoku date"—which translates to "producing hell"—wood lye, bran and shell-ash are combined then allowed to ferment before the stool is dipped in. The result is a strongly pigmented, deep blue that still allows the natural grain of the wood to shine through.
In 1933, Aino and Alvar Aalto made the acquaintance of Hikotaro Ichikawa, Japanese ambassador to Finland, and his wife Kayoko. Madame Ichikawa gave Aino Aalto a gift of silk fabric with a cherry blossom motif. As an homage, Aino created the Kirsikankukka (meaning cherry blossom in Finnish) pattern, which will relaunch in a new textile as part of this collection.
Artek collaborated with fashion and textile designer Akira Minagawa to produce "Pieces of Aalto," a poetic meditation on the classic forms created by the Aalto's. Like an artist's book, the pages are filled with highly personal drawings by Minagawa, who translates the language of Artek into poetic patterns and quirky creatures.
The entire FIN/JPN Friendship Collection will be on view at Brera Design District April 8 - April 14.