Maija-Liisa Komulainen

Maija-Liisa (Maikki) Komulainen (born in 1922 in Kajaani , Finland ) is a Finnish interior and industrial designer best known for her futuristic lights and innovative furniture designs.

Komulainen graduated from the the University of Art and Design in Helsinki in 1949 and from 1950 to the late 1960s she worked in Helsinki on interior design projects as well as furniture. She designed seating furniture such as chairs made of wood, wicker or metal as well as lounge chairs and sofas for Uusi Koti- Nya Hemmet.

In the late 1950s Komulainen furnished Tamminiemi , at the time the residence of Finnish president Urho Kekkonen in Helsinki, together with his wife Sylvi Kekkonen. They replaced the faux rococo furniture that had dominated the residence and modernized the interior.

Her best-known creations include lighting objects such as her wall lights Fuga, reminiscent of organ pipes and made of aluminum with several concealed light sources, which she designed around 1970 for the Dutch manufacturer of lights – Raak in Amsterdam, Holland. Raak was founded in 1954 by Carel O. Lockhorn and is one of the most important Dutch lighting manufacturers of the 20th century.

The company manufactured a large number of Komulainen’s lights, which, with their warm, indirect light, were widely used in public buildings. The mushroom inspired metal floor or table lamp Chantarelle, made of mostly copper-colored anodized aluminum is one of her significant works, a key piece in the 1960’s space age.

In 1967 Komulainen opened the Estudio de Interiores together with French–Finnish designer Li Helo (pictured above) in the Francisco Gourie area in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria . Little is known of her life past that period. She is mentioned in the book ‘Who’s who of Women’ by The World in 1974.

She was a member of the Finnish Association of Interior Architects SIO and the Finnish Designer Association ORNAMO, both based in Helsinki.

  • Maija-Liisa Komulainen
  • Born 1922 – ?
  • Silver medals for her exhibits at the internationales in Paris in 1954 and in Brussels in 1955.
  • Interior decorator for numerous commercial and residential buildings in Helsinki
  • Founded Estudio de Interiores in 1967 on Gran Canaria

Hilkka Mekri (Säynäjärvi)

Hilkka Mekri (Säynäjärvi) (nee Otsakari) (1917–88) studied at the School of Industrial Arts in Helsinki, graduating in 1945, and started working at Arabia that same year. Most of the students at the time were women, as were the ceramists at Arabia, and in time they would become renowned for their work.

After the Finnish Winter War she married Rafael Mekri, who died in the Continuation War. She got a position at the arts department at Arabia, whose artists were given more privileges and freedom to create. She focused on creating plates, bowls and vases, experimenting with various glazes and decorations. Mekri was friends with ceramist Kyllikki Salmenhaara and there are resemblances in their work.

In the end of the 1940s Hilkka Mekri remarried with Klas Säynäjärvi, a geologist who travelled extensively in his work, and they had two children at the end of the 1940s and beginning of the 1950s. Although Arabia had a kindergarten, which took care of the children while the parents were at work, Hilkka Säynäjärvi decided to leave her career and become a housewife.

Säynäjärvi painted and worked on fabrics such as silk paintings and embroideries during her time at home. Over time she got back into ceramics, renting a basement space in the 1960s where she could throw and burn her creations. in 1966, the family moved to the small town of Parainen in Finland. Säynäjärvi got her own space at the tile factory Turun Kaakeli, for whom she also created company gifts to order.

  • Hilkka Mekri (1917–88)
  • De Bijenkorf department store in Holland (1949) – exhibition of ten artists working at Arabia at the time.
  • Best known for her work at Arabia from 1945 to 1952.


Maiju Gebhard

When it comes to good design, we quite often take it for granted. One of the best examples of this is the dish drying cabinet – a shelving rack placed above the sink, with an open bottom and shelves made of steel wire or dowels to allow washed dishes set within to drip into the sink and air dry.

The origin of the idea is disputed but the concept was popularized by Maiju Gebhard (1896–1986), the head of the household department at the Finnish Work Efficiency Institute in the 1940s. Gebhard became a household teacher in Sweden in 1919, where she also discovered dish racks placed on the sink.

She worked as a counsel for the small farmers union for many years and during that time she calculated that a Finnish housewife spends over 30.000 hours of her life washing dishes, and the dish drying cabinet would save up to 50 percent of the time used.

The first drying racks, 135 and 100 cm wide, were produced out of wood by the Finnish Work Efficiency Institute in Vilppula, Finland in 1945 and the industrial production began in 1948 at the Enso-Gutzeit factory, with an updated plastic-coated steel wire model introduced in 1954. The drying cabinet was standardized in 1982 and it has since become an accessory in virtually every Finnish home. Among others IKEA nowadays features dish dryings racks in its range of kitchen series.

Maiju Gebhard dedicated her life to improving the work of Finnish homemakers. During the war, when the men were at the front and the women had to do the hard labour, she developed new tools and processes which helped make work easier. Examples of this is a shoulder support for carrying heavy goods and a indoor container for bio waste. The time saving measures not only made work lighter but also allowed families more time together.

  • Maiju Gebhard
  • Born 1896, passed 1986
  • Gebhard wrote extensively about time saving measures in the home and published many books.
  • Other who created their own versions of the dish drying rack: Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (1926), Angiolina Scheuermann (1929) and Louise R. Krause (1932).
  • Renowned for her dish drying rack placed above the kitchen sink. Her first notes date the idea to the late 1920s.

Lisa Larson

Inga Lisa Larson, (née Alhage) was born in Härlunda, Sweden in 1931. She studied ceramics 1950–1954 at the then century old Handicraft School in Gothenburg and is today known as one of Sweden’s most beloved mid-century ceramists.

Initially she wanted to study fashion, but found her love in clay.

When Lisa Larson in the mid 1950s joined the Swedish ceramic factory Gustavsberg through a design competition, she thought she would only work there for one year. That year turned in 26 as she stayed until 1980 and created many classics along the way, working closely with the artistic director Stig Lindberg. He had discovered one of her cats made out of clay and her mission was to develop Gustavsberg’s line of decorative items.

The beloved product ranges

Lisa Larson is perhaps best know for her different range of humorous ceramic sculptures such as Little Zoo and especially the lion from 1955, ABC Girls from 1958, Larson’s Kids from 1961, Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking in the late 1960s and Skansen in 1976. She created ‘Children of the world’ 1975-1979 by assignment from Unicef with a part of the proceeds going to their work. The series Advent Children and was put into production in 1979 and is still being sold. In the late 1970s Larson designed a number of bronze statues for Scandia Present AB with the name “The Ant”, “The Great Sailor” and “Teenager”. Her recurring themes are fauna, motherhood and family life.

Larson started freelancing in 1981 for companies like Rosenthal, Höganäs and Skrufs Glassworks and created public art such as the Saltsjöbaden Beast and the Byzantine Angel in Hällefors.

In 1992 she founded Keramikstudion located in the Gustavsberg harbour together with her collaborators Siv Solins and Franco Nicolosi, who still run the ceramic studio and produce pieces for sale around the world.

Lisa Larsson was married to the designer Gunnar Larson. Together they visited as guest artists in the atelier of the sculptor Peter Voulkos in Berkeley, California.

  • Lisa Larsson
  • Born 1931
  • Retrospective exhibitions at Röhsska in Gothenburg, Shigaraki Museum in Japan and the National Museum in Stockholm.
  • Best known for her characteristic Swedish ceramic design of the 20th century.

Eva Hidström

Eva Hidström studied at Ateneum under among others the renowned designer Bertel Gardberg (who urged her to start working with enamel) in Helsinki in the early 1950’s and from 1956 until 1967 she had a studio in Salo, with work and study stints in Germany and Switzerland as well. Her teacher Max Fröhlich helped her develop the technique while she studied in Switzerland.

In Finland she worked with her apprentice Vuokko Kavander. She created lots of jewellery in the shape of bracelets, necklaces and earrings and focused on enamel decorations, among them scraffito which involved laying different layers of enamel glass on top of each other. She also made enamelled boxes and even exhibited at the Milan Triennale in 1960.

From 1968 until 1971 she worked for Hopeakeskus (The Silver Centre) where she crafted candle holders, spoons and bowls like the one below, their inside covered with bright blue or orange enamel.

She has also worked for the gold smith Tillander (1954-1955) and she has taught at the Finnish Goldsmith School (1971-1982).

Eva Hidström particularly liked her framed enamel work as it allowed her to express herself freely without the commercial restraints. She made most of them in the 1980s.

A large part of her work was exported and there seems to be very few items on the market but her archives are held by the Design Museum in Helsinki.

  • Eva Hidström
  • Born 1930
  • Pioneered the use of enamel design (cloisonné) and helped bring to and further the art form in Finland and around Europe.

Images from Turun Sanomat, Bukowskis, Auktionsverket, Leimat.fiSalon Taiteilijaseura, Design Museum and the magazines Yhteisvoimin and Me Naiset.

Heidi Blomstedt

Heidi Blomstedt, born Sibelius in 1911 at the Sibelius residence Ainola, her father being composer Jean Sibelius. Blomstedt would excel in her ceramic work, her designs breaking with the style at the time.

Blomstedt was home schooled by her mother but later studied ceramics at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, graduating in 1932. In the summer of 1929, at the wedding of her sister Margareta, Heidi met the architect Aulis Blomstedt. They married in 1932 and had two children in 1937 and 1946.

The ceramist Elsa Elenius taught at UIAH from 1930 until 1962 and both she and the ceramist A. W. Finch made a great impact on Blomstedt. She made the observation that homeware articles and decorative objects were hard to tell apart because the homeware was often overly decorative. Thus she reasoned that rational design was the way to elevate the everyday life. This was also reflected in her husbands work and art and they wrote articles together on the subject.

After graduating from the university she predominately worked as a freelance ceramist with a focus on objects of a minimalist nature. She briefly worked in stints during her studies at the Arabia factory (1873- ) in Helsinki, Finland and at Upsala-Ekeby (1886-1980) in Uppsala, Sweden in the 1950s.

Inspired by her ceramic work at the factory in Sweden, Blomstedt crafted a series of ceramic bowls and vases in geometric shapes at the ceramics factory Kupittaan Savi (1921-1969) in Turku, Finland in the early 1960s. Later in the decade she worked at the Kumela glassworks (1933-1985) on a similar design language – thick glass bowls and vases named Lumilasi (Snow Glass).

Blomstedt also worked on a series of clay masks in the late 1960s.

“Simplicity has justified its legitimacy in contemporary interior design”

Blomstedt’s design expression was stripped of decoration and relied on colours and shapes, which for example at Kupittaan Savi clearly put them apart from the rest of the production at the factory. She designed them with clear shapes in mind with the colours yellow, red, brown and blue, and they work especially well as a series.

Her work have received new found interest in the 2000s with objects rarely surfacing at auction.

Heidi Blomstedt 

  • 1911-1982
  • Best known for her ceramic work at Kupittaan Savi in the early 1960s
  • Her works were presented at industrial design exhibits in the 1930s as well as the Paris World Fair in 1937
  • Her collected works were exhibited at Gallery Pinx (1957- ) in 1963

Marjatta Metsovaara

Marjatta Metsovaara-Van Havere (né Metsovaara (1927 – 2014) is especially known for her rugs and colourful printed fabrics , some of which are still in production.

Metsovaara was born into a multicultural family, and her father Aleksander had started a textile factory in Urjala in the 1930s. She attended The School of Arts, Design and Architecture in 1949, studied with other designers such as Maija Isola and Nanny Still, and then started Vennas Oy with Helin Vennas and Senja Laine-Ylijoki in Helsinki.

She expanded the family business in 1954, changing the name into Metsovaara Ltd and branching into woven textiles, wall tapestries and rugs as the company’s artistic director from 1957 until 1980. The first orders came from Artek, Asko, and Funktio. She also designed for other companies such as Finlayson and Valvilla (former Villayhtymä).

Metsovaara arranged many exhibitions both domestic and abroad, the first one at Artek in 1957, and received recognition and awards at many of them.
Metsovaara married twice, had four children, set up and ran a weaving company in Belgium from 1965 with her second husband Albert Van Haveren whom she married in 1966. Metsovaara sold both that company as well as the company that bore her name in 1980 and 1990. She moved to Nice in 1984 following the death of her husband.

Metsovaara designed the Flower and Shell patterns in the early 1960s and other assisted designs for the former textile company Tampella. She was especially interested in the colouring of the textiles and spent much time focusing on getting them right. Other mentionable patterns are Reed and Primavera, which has become a classic.

  • Marjatta Metsovaara
  • Born 1927, passed 2014
  • Arranged Expo exhibitions in 1963, 1966 and 1969 – the largest private exhibits in Finnish history at the time
  • Awarded at the Milan Triennale in 1957 and 1960
  • Lauréat de la Sélection Nationale de Design Industriel, Brussels in 1963
  • Ornamo Silver Ball in 1964
  • Signe d’Or Medal in Brussels, in 1968 and 1985
  • Received the Pro Finlandia medal in 1970
  • Woman of the Year 1977 in Finland

Photos from

Karin Larsson

Karin Larsson (née Bergöö, 1859 – 1928) was a Swedish artist and designer who collaborated with her husband, Carl Larsson, and who is often considered to be the first to have laid the foundation for the Swedish design language.

Karin Bergöö was born in Örebro, Sweden and early showed artistic talent. She attended the Ecole Française in Stockholm, studied at the Handicrafts School; (now Konstfack) and from 1877 to 1882 at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. After completing her studies, she travelled to Grez-sur-Loing, near Paris, the site of a colony of Scandinavian artists, to continue painting.

It was in Grez-sur-Loing where she met her future husband Carl Larsson and they had their first child, Suzanne, in 1884. The following year, they returned to Sweden. Eventually they moved into Lilla Hyttnäs, a cottage in Sundborn on the outskirts of Falun where Karin Larsson’s father had been born. They enlarged it to accommodate the whole family and it became known as the Larsson farm.

Karin acted as a sparring partner and critic for Carl’s work, and she is also often featured in his work. With house chores and eight children to manage, she channelled her own artistic impulses into designing and weaving a large amount of the textiles used in the house, embroidered, and designed clothes for herself and the children and furniture which was created by a local carpenter. The aprons worn by her and other women who worked at Sundborn, known as karinförkläde in Swedish, were for example a practical design by her.

The style in which Karin Larsson decorated the house, depicted in Carl’s paintings, created a new, recognisably Swedish style: “In total contrast to the prevailing style of dark heavy furnishings, its bright interiors incorporated an innovative blend of Swedish folk design and fin-de-siècle influences, including Japonisme and Arts and Crafts ideas from Britain.”

In the “Swedish room” with which she replaced the little used drawing room, she removed curtains and placed furniture along the walls around a raised dais, creating a room within a room that was much used by the family, as shown in Carl’s paintings, with a sofa in a corner for naps, shown in Lathörnet (Lazy Nook).

Her textile designs and colours were also new: “Pre-modern in character they introduced a new abstract style in tapestry. Her bold compositions were executed in vibrant colours; her embroidery frequently used stylised plants. In black and white linen she reinterpreted Japanese motifs.”

She is buried at Sundborn’s cemetery.

  • Karin Larsson
  • 1859-1928
  • Her most creative period was between 1900 and 1910.
  • 1997 Karin’s interior design had an international breakthrough at the Carl Larsson exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
  • 2009 she was highlighted with an exhibition in Sundborn.
  • 2018, the exhibition Carl Larsson and His Home: Art of the Swedish Lifestyle at Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art, showed textiles made by Karin

Kaija Aarikka

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

Margaret T. Nordman

Margaret Travers Nordman was the first woman in Finland to find full employment in the furniture business and to craft a lifelong career within the field, with her main body of work at the department store Stockmann.

Nordman studied at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture from 1918 to 1921 and was the ninth person to graduate as a furniture designer – the furniture study department was founded in 1915 and was headed by Max Frelander until 1928. Two other women, Sigrid Strandberg and Aili Wartiovaara, had previously graduated but pursued other careers.

Nordman started out freelancing and working at Arttu Brummer’s (husband of Eva Anttila and Eva Brummer) interior decoration firm. Interior decorators and furniture designers had trouble finding steady income at the time but the department store Stockmann would be the first to hire full time designers.

Stockmann’s (1862-) furniture design department in Helsinki was created in 1919 when it bought The Kerava Carpenter Factory (Keravan Puusepäntehdas − Kervo Snickerifabrik 1908-1985). The furniture designer Harry Röneholm ran the furniture company in the early years and he was followed by Werner West and then Olof Ottelin.

Nordman was hired as one of the lead designers at the company in 1928 and would spend 35 years at Stockmann’s furniture department up until her retirement in 1963. Initially she designed traditional furniture but in the 1930s Stockmann started modernising its designs in a functional and modernist fashion. Nordman was instrumental in that development and conducted study visits to Italy, England and France for new impressions. She also visited the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930, that had a great impact on the architectural styles functionalism and international style in the Nordics. Some of her most recognized furniture ranges are named Anna, Atlantic and Elvi.

The work at Stockmann varied from the design of furniture to complete interiors in Finland and the Finnish contribution at the world fairs in New York and Paris in the late 1930s. One of her biggest works was the design of sections within Stockmann’s department store in central Helsinki that opened in 1930. Much of the work was however labeled as designed by the furniture department, and not the individual designers, and Nordman has therefore enjoyed little recognition.

Margaret never married, nor had children.

  • Margaret Travers Nordman
  • 1898-1981
  • Won the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design’s award in 1920, 1927 and 1936.
  • Designed a dish drying rack in the 1920s, a similar design was popularised by Maiju Gebhard in the 1940s.
  • Sources:
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