For a photographer Helsinki is an amazingly beautiful and inspiring city. As a designer and a photographer, I tend to see everything around me either as pictures or patterns. The four seasons of the country offer different colors, moods and lights into images, and the urban views and industrial scenes might get more interesting from the ever changing weather.
The Finnish word for a bear, KARHU, indicates to the course (karhea) fur of the bear. Karhu ( Ursus arctos) has always been sacred to the Finns, the king of the forest and has played a significant role in Finnish mythology. Ancient Finns considered the bears to be our ancestors. Using the orginal word for the animal, ohto, was prohibited. Therefore there are over 300 different names for the bear in Finnish language and dialects; mesikämmen, otso and kontio just to mention a few of them.
In Kuusamo Predator Center there are six bears, one of them is called Juuso. Juuso is the most famous bear in Finland, there are plenty of YouTube videos of Juuso and he has been featured even in the Huffington Post. As far as I know he is the only brown bear in the world, that paints.
Juuso has been raised up by Sulo Karjalainen, who worked as an assistant for the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute. Sulo took care of infirm and orphaned bear, lynx and other animal cubs found in wilderness. Some of the cubs were injured in car accidents or their mother had been shot. As the animals gained back their strength, they were released back to the wilderness. When the research program by Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute was ended, the animals faced dispatching.
Several of the animals had lived in the house of Sulo Karjalainen, and he had formed a close relationship to many of them. Sulo applied for an authorization to keep predators and to establish a zoo, and Kuusamo Predator Center was established in 1992. Juuso's father, Vyöti, came with the police car from Suomussalmi as an orphan cub, and Tessu, Juuso's mother, was one of three orphaned siblins also found from Suomussalmi. Juuso had his 18th birthday while hibernation during last winter.
When animal art collector Heikki Lehtosaari contacted me with his idea of me designing a collection based on Juuso's paintings, at first I hesitated. And the designer's despair continued all through the design process. Why am I doing this? Will it be interesting enough? How will it blend with the rest of my work? But after the launch I realized, that the JuJu Collection was indeed worth designing and launching. Juuso uses a lot of colors, and so do I. I love telling stories to customers in my shop, and this is definitely a lovely and unique story. So now we have a new artist at Taiga Colors and I love it!
Kuusamo Predator Center gets 10 % of the sales revenue of the JuJu Collection. All the JuJu Collection items, as well as all the other Taiga Colors products, are manufactured in Finland.
Have you ever seen a bear? What is your opinion, can the art of a brown bear be called art?
Ever since I was a little kid I was interested in flying. I loved jumping down from the roof of my grandparent's sauna, of course in a huge pile of snow. I built Apollo shuttle underneath the kitchen table, and spent hours there as an astronaut. When I grew up and started travelling, I always asked from the flight attendant to get me a permission to go visit the cockpit during the flight. I applied for flight attendant training, but I was too tall. In 2004, travelling by myself in Borneo, I got a chance to tandem skydive at 4000 meters from an old C-130 Hercules. My heart starts beating really hard when Hornets fly above. I still run outside if I hear a helicopter passing by. I love the take offs and landings when travelling. Aviation is written in my blood, and I have to find out where and why.
So three years ago, when I found out that I would get to design a project for the Finnish Defence Forces, I was thrilled! One of the patterns I designed for the project was a wall paper of a F-18 Hornet. Soon customers started asking for Taiga Colors collection items with aviation patterns. So in December 2015 I started organizing contacts and photo permits to Helsinki-Malmi Airport. I wanted to design an airplane pattern to accompany the Taiga Colors icebreakers, cranes and urban Helsinki patterns. My interest at this point was purely visual.
Then what happened? I found out about the alarming situation of the airport and turned into an Malmi Airport -activist in no time. And launched an aviation themed 60°15′14″N 025°02′39″E -collection with 25 different pieces, varying from cushion covers to evening clutches.
So what is so special about Helsinki-Malmi Airport?
Helsinki-Malmi Airport is probably the world's best preserved airport from the early days of passenger air traffic. The beautiful airport with its functionalism architecture buildings was built in 1936. It is the most important pilot training airport and the second busiest airport in whole Finland. It is a recreational area for locals, and has for 80 years been a free open biotope area with unique fauna and flora, with a number of threatened and near-threatened species. Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute selected Malmi Airport as one of Europe's Seven Most Endangered cultural heritage sites in 2016.
The city of Helsinki is about to close the airport at the end of this year (2016) in order to make it a residential area. It is quite obvious that it is in the interest of only a small group of politicians and developers to close the airport. Anyone flying into Finland can see that there is no shortage of land in this country, even in the greater Helsinki area. By closing down Helsinki-Malmi Airport, the only international unscheduled airport in 150 km range, the city of Helsinki is not only destroying the future of aviation in Finland but also threatening democracy in Finland. All the polls have shown that the residents of Helsinki and Uusimaa province want to keep the airport, only 15 % are in favor of construction. Lex Malmi, the citizen's initiative to retain the airport in aviation, has been supported by over 55 000 people, and it will proceed to the Parliament during 2016.
Live Long and Prosper, Malmi Airport!