The fabric of daily life
TEXT: LOUISE OLDER STEFFENSEN | PHOTOS © MARJAANA NISKANEN/VISUAL FRIDAY
Marjaana Niskanen got into textile design quite by accident. Her designs, however, are anything but incidental. “I find so much pleasure in the nature, people and animals around me,” she says. “There’s a lot of inspiration in the everyday life, from the trees around me to Chicken Lady Rentukka, my friend’s chicken who very kindly modelled for me.”
Niskanen grew up in the little village of Viitasaari in Finland’s central region, an area known for its watery natural beauty. “I was always surrounded by lakes, forests and fresh air. It was a very idyllic and healthy place to grow up,” she says.
Niskanen later moved to the region’s largest city, Jyväskylä, to pursue her career. One day, she came across a textile design course and fell in love with the slow and careful but experimental process of turning an idea into a real thing. “I like to make things that bring people a little bit of joy every day, and I think the best way to do that is to make objects that are actually practical and will be used regularly,” she says.
Niskanen began receiving commissions while still a student, allowing her to set up her company in 2017. “I naturally found inspiration in the things I knew, and I love the fun little details and stories of everyday life. Back in my childhood village, for example, the neighbours had a big friendly Finnhorse called Loukon Lotta. She inspired one of my first designs. Both the pattern and she are still going strong, and I visit her whenever I go to Viitasaari,” the designer smiles. “I think that kind of quiet joy resonates with a lot of Finns and people in general.”
Today, Niskanen’s products can be found in numerous places from the TeaHouse of Wehmais to the Finnish Craft & Design Fair, as well as at her workshop in Jyväskylä. With a bit of advance warning, people can come by to see her work and peruse her collection of trays, cushions, bags and more. Bold motifs like the Loukon Lotta, muikku fish and Finnish birch trees adorn the little shop, but the matching patterns and uses of colour ensure that their subtlety and quirkiness draw in people naturally rather than scream out for attention. “The most important thing for me is that my designs are meaningful to me. I’ve found that if I love what I make, that translates to other people as well. Hopefully the warmth and good vibes I get from them can be shared with you too!”