Kaija Helena Aarikka-Ruokonen opened her first little Aarikka shop, the Nappi-Aarikka outlet, in the Wrede merchants’ alley in the center of Helsinki in 1960 with an impressive assortment of buttons – the first of many shops and products to come.
She had established the company that carried her name in 1954 together with her husband Erkki Ruokonen. She acted as its creative director from the start and quickly became known for her playful approach to jewellery, toys and homewares as well for her use of materials such as wood, brass and cast iron. Initially they ran the company from home, expanding into the garage and then into their own shop.
After middle school, Kaija Aarikka applied to the Ester Perheentupa weaving school from where she continued on to the textile department at Ateneum, the Industrial School of Arts in Helsinki in 1951. The company Aarikka has its roots in a need for wooden buttons for her natural coloured dress diploma work at Ateneum. Since she could not find the right kind of buttons on the market, Aarikka decided to carve them herself, from a piece of rosewood she found at the Brothers Udd’s wood scrap yard on the outskirts of Helsinki. The buttons were especially well received and Aarikka got requests. Her husband Erkki helped her develop new production methods and the two set off manufacturing jewellery and buttons.
The wooden ram
They opened up a second shop in 1963 called Kukkurakauppa and it had room for gift items as well as fashion for men and women. The Aarikka weaving mill, which created felt blankets designed by Kaija was located above the store. By the 1970s Aarikka had opened additional stores and half of its sales came from abroad.
Her wooden ram is perhaps her most well known design but she also crafted exquisite items in cast iron and brass – often marked Aarikka Finland.
Although Aarikka mainly worked on designs for he own company, she also found time to design for the Humppila Glassworks, A. Ahlström and Tampella.
- Kaija Aarikka
- Born 1929 Somero
- Dead 2014 Helsinki
- Reimagined the use of wood in design and helped pave the way for other designer led enterprises in Finland.
- Received the Pro Finland Medal in 1994