The founder of Marimekko, the legendary
Armi Ratia, started Marimekko in the 1950s, developed it and
took it through troubled times to achieve incredible success
and renown. In the 1950s, Finland, like the rest of Europe,
looked desolate. In the wake of the war, people had a bottomless
yearning for beauty and a better life. While Finland groped
in a grey workaday world at the start of the fifties, there
stirred in the minds of several young designers the desire
to create something unprecedented. Armi Ratia assembled a
team of bold, fearless young designers, the best in their
field, and began to create a new vision of peoples everyday
Marimekko was boldness, unconstrained young energy, creativity
with no regard for rules and without borderlines. This essential
heritage has continued to this day. Marimekko began to fill
a grey visual vacuum with colours and to fulfil peoples
dreams and wishes. There was no knowing if this would fall
on fertile ground. Marimekko design, its fabrics and garments,
began to strike a chord among circles sharing the same ideals.
Marimekko also reflected subcultures that had started in the
wider world, like the hippy movement and pop art. Avant-garde
thought supported everything that Marimekko was. Everyday
life became beautiful and Marimekko became a way of life.
Marimekko became the baby-boom generations protest against
their parents lifestyle and it provided an alternative
to a grey and conventional world. Marimekko was joy and the
flavour of life.
Genuine, creative talent endures, and oftentimes the passage
of time only enhances the glory of talent.
One of Marimekkos most individualist talented young
designers was Maija Isola, who took part from the companys
start-up onwards and worked for Marimekko for 38 years. The
interior fabrics she designed brought about a revolution in
Finnish homes in the fifties and sixties, and today they are
more famous than ever. Maija Isola designed more than 500
patterns for Marimekko, of which the Unikko fabric has enjoyed
a popularity that is totally unmatched.
For my part, I would like to recount a small episode that
took place 14 years ago, when I had just come to Marimekko
and the fate of the entire company was still in the balance.
We picked a Maija Isola design, Fandango, for the Christmas
range of fabrics. It was printed in gold on a red black and
white base. Fandango became a big hit that Christmas. I felt
a great sense of gratitude to Maija Isola. I sent her a cheque
in thanks. Maija returned the cheque with a letter saying
I needed the money more than she. This well describes Maija
Isolas greatness and loyalty.
It was Armi Ratias great dream to arrange a broad-based
exhibition in honour of Maija Isolas lifes work.
Now this dream has come true, for which warm thanks are due
to the superb director of Design Museum, Marianne Aav, and
her team. I would also like to thank Kristina Isola, the Marimekko
committee, and our partners OKOBANK Group and Varma Mutual
Pension Insurance Company for their help in making the exhibition
LIFE, ART, MARIMEKKO
at DESIGN MUSEUM 25.5. 4.9.2005
Isola joined Marimekko as a designer at the age of 22, immediately
upon graduating. She was the first artist and designer on
a regular salary at Printex/Marimekko, and the companys
role in renewing printed fabrics was largely based on her
work as a designer, producing over 500 printed patterns. From
the outset, Isola sought a new image for printed fabrics.
Her works are known for their large, bold designs and rich
colours. Isola found inspiration in nature, folk art and modern
visual art alike. Her first complete series of printed fabrics
was the Luonto (Nature) collection from 1957 for which she
created the patterns by projecting photographs of plants directly
onto the canvas. This was followed by the romantic Ornamentti
(Ornament) collection based on East European folk art. The
Joonas collection from 1961-1962 was in turn based on large
designs created with free brushstrokes. Isola became particularly
popular among architects with her Arkkitehti (Architect) collection
employing large planes of colour.
Design Museums exhibition MAIJA ISOLA LIFE, ART,
MARIMEKKO presents Maija Isolas beloved works and delves
into the fascinating world of her art. Published in connection
with the exhibition will be an extensive and richly illustrated
catalogue on Maija Isolas life and works. Her lifes
work is analysed from various perspectives. Her friends and
colleagues present recollections of her, and Isolas
output of 500 printed fabrics is presented with colour photographs.
The contributors include Maija Isolas daughter the artist
Kristina Isola, Dr. Mika Pantzar, a consumption researcher,
the artist Kimmo Sarje, PhD., and Marianne Aav, Director of
Photos: Max ja Moritz 1968, Kataja 1962.