Polarmoss: Sharing pieces of Nordic nature with the world
By Ndéla Faye | Photos: Polarmoss
Polarmoss is a family-run business, based on the idyllic Hailuoto Island in Finland’s northern Baltic Sea. The company honours an almost century-old handicraft and the tradition of harvesting and preserving moss. This unique work brings Nordic nature and soft connection to nature into people’s lives.
The beautiful island of Hailuoto, close to the Arctic Circle, is known for its picturesque and unspoiled nature, and its rich and unique ecosystem. This is where Polarmoss’ story began in 1985 – although the company’s tradition of moss utilisation dates back over 80 years. Today, the moss company has been in the family for four generations.
Hailuoto Island has a longstanding history of handicraft – and Polarmoss see their own operations as a continuation of that heritage. The lichen available on the island is of deep significance to Polarmoss, who are harvesting and utilising the moss according to a tradition that is almost a century old.
Polarmoss specialises in designing and manufacturing interior design elements made of moss. The elements, which can be custom-made to any specifications, come in a number of shapes, sizes, textures and colours.
Every step of Polarmoss’ production – from harvesting to colouring – is done by hand by the company’s 40-strong team. The production process starts by carefully hand-picking the correct grades of moss in the forest. This requires a lot of skill, knowledge and patience, as the same picking area can only be used at intervals of five to ten years. The eco-friendly colouring process has been developed over a period of decades, and the pigments and ingredients used in the process are non-toxic.
Not plants, but living organisms
“There are over 20,000 different types of moss and lichen in the world, and more than 2,000 of those can be found in Finland. The one we use is called Reindeer lichen (lat. Cladonia stellaris). They’re not plants, they’re living organisms with complex functions, and we have to be mindful not to jeopardise them in any way. We always leave the forest in wellcared-for condition and ensure that moss has time to recuperate between picking periods. We respect nature and its gifts to us,” Mikko Sipola, head of management at Polarmoss, explains.
The moss elements can be used in residential, commercial or public spaces. In addition to being stunning design features, they can be used for acoustics purposes, and as a way to balance humidity levels in a room, due to the natural moisture-binding and releasing properties of moss. “Although the moss in our products is no longer living, it’s still a natural product, and just like wool or wood, it reacts to variations in humidity levels,” Sipola explains.
The moss is delicate and flexible at the same time. Depending on the humidity levels in the space, the moss might feel tough or soft. Better yet, there is no need to maintain it. “There is something very calming about the moss, and it can be used to complement, enhance and calm the surrounding space,” he continues.
Sustainability above all
Despite Finland’s famous ‘Everyman’s Right’ – which stipulates that all people residing or visiting Finland have the right to pick berries and mushrooms and enjoy nature anywhere in the country regardless of land ownership – the rule does not apply to moss-harvesting, and Polarmoss pays the forest owners for the moss it picks from their forests. “We never harvest moss mechanically, as this often damages it, and causes it to stop growing in that particular area,” says Sipola.
The moss company’s genuine respect for nature is evident in their whole ethos and approach. “We value authenticity above all, and we make sure our business reflects that. Our employees are skilled people who work very carefully and in an environmentally sustainable way to bring nature closer to people on each continent, and in some of the world’s largest metropoles – from London to Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Dubai, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul,” says Sipola.
“We are proud to design and create contemporary products using traditional methods and skilful handicraft that has been passed down through generations. This also means that our customers are able to experience and interact with the beauty that Nordic nature has to offer through our products. This is our mission and the inspiration behind everything we do.”
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