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?