Visual artist Miina Äkkijyrkkä is famous for her cow-themed drawings, paintings and sculptures. The Helsinki-based artist shares her time between art and watching cattle. For Marimekko, she has designed fabrics as well as kitchen and tabletop accessories.
Miina Äkkijyrkkä, how would you describe your way of working?
It's a process. In the beginning, everything seems to be scattered, and I find it difficult to start. I have to force myself. I first think about what I want to express. It can be, for instance, joy, delight, the feeling of freedom... I ponder what this thing really means, and then start to sketch. I have a certain fear of the blank page. Sometimes it feels easier to draw the initial lines on a page that has, say, a stain. I draw and sketch a lot at first; at times, I can make as many as fifty drawings a day. The line needs to be warmed up before it flows. When the line begins to flow, the actual work can begin.
The process is a struggle against the difficulty of working. I make drawings and paintings on large sheets of paper. Sometimes I write about the difficulty of working. I may start with a line, and add colours later. Occasionally, I begin by spreading colours on paper, and then outline the picture by drawing on top of the paints. Moments of rest and breaks have an important role in the working process; they help to clarify thoughts.
Is there a special place where you prefer to work?
To me, light and the right state of mind are more important than place. Light affects everything, the colours, the contrasts... I can draw anywhere – in the train, for example, or outdoors. Working requires effort and courage. You have to dare to start the struggle with the line.
Where do you get your ideas from?
From many things. The contrast between two colours can be very inspiring. By squinting your eyes you can make a certain colour stand out. Observing cows or the good mood created by another person can also inspire me to draw.
What does the word Marimekko bring to your mind?
Marimekko is a bright spot in the greyness of Finland.
What's it like to create fabric print designs at Marimekko?
Marimekko has been a dream to me. The spirit in which people work is good; the atmosphere is inspiring and creative. People have had long careers at Marimekko. This signals that people enjoy their jobs. It has been an adventure to create print patterns and products from my own paintings and drawings. I have learned new techniques, and have had the chance to familiarise myself with different materials, from plywood to porcelain. The same pattern may have been worked and worked again, but my touch is still present in the final products.
What do you think are the most important qualities of a designer? It's important to be humble towards your work. You should not think too highly of yourself, and not judge your work until it is finished. A proud mind can ruin even a good stroke. You have to devote yourself entirely to the work process. Designing is team work, in which good interaction skills are also necessary.
What do you dream of for your life?
I am interested in the international art scene. I dream of having large exhibitions abroad. It would be very exciting to have the opportunity to interact, for example, with the art audience in Paris. I also dream of travelling. I would love to travel across the world to deepen my knowledge of cows in different conditions. I would like to get to know the long-eared Indo-Brazilian cows, the cattle of the nomads living in the steppes of Mongolia, the yaks of Tibet, the buffaloes of the prairies...
What is most important in your work?
Dreams, ideas and the work itself. Life should not be too easy. Contrasts and pressure add richness to life.
If you could choose any place in the world, where would you like to see a fabric designed by you?
In the bedroom of Queen Elisabeth, or at least of Prince William.