Iina Vuorivirta: Nordic design with a modern twist 03.12.13

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It has been quite a year for Iina Vuorivirta. Despite not yet having completed her master's degree, the Finnish designer has exhibited at the Milan Saloni, been awarded young designer of the year by Design Forum Finland and is in negotiations with a large manufacturer to realise products developed during her undergraduate studies. In September, she will bring her work to London to be shown at the 19 Greek Street Gallery during the London Design Festival and then exhibit in Helsinki and Estonia. It is hard to believe that Vuorivirta is only 25.

Vuorivirta's work betrays her curiosity for materials and is impeccably crafted – the result, she says, of a design education that began in her homeland and continued in Stockholm. "In Finland the tradition of making is strong. The course encourages you to work with and study a lot of materials. One week is a ceramic workshop, then metal work and then wood," says Vuorivirta. "I guess that means I am not afraid of changing material all the time." In Sweden, she feels that she was able to develop the creative approach to her work, building upon her knowledge of materials. "In Sweden I got to dive into my own artistic way of working and develop my own themes," she says. "I guess that is the difference between the [design culture] in the two countries."

As she talks about her collection, Vuorivirta exudes a confidence and enthusiasm that has yet to be dampened by the rigmaroles of a long career in design. Her eclectic use of materials reveals an energetic approach to her work, and the demands of production means that Vuorivirta flits between Stockholm and Finnish backwaters to collaborate with local craftsmen.

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credit Mass Produced Individual lights; Christofer Yevenes Zagal

Her most successful design to date is Mass Produced Individualism. The product was conceived while she was completing her undergraduate degree at Beckman's College of Design in Stockholm in 2011. The design uses moulded clay to produce a vessel and lampshade from the same cast, which is poured using a standardised process. When the wet clay is setting, the cast is chopped in half by hand – creating a unique product each time. The finish is deliberately rough: "I wanted to keep the marks from the process that are usually considered as mistakes or a lack of finishing," says Vuorivirta. "For me they tell the story of the product." She is currently in negotiations with One Nordic to find a way of bringing the product to market.

Fennia (the Latin word for Finland) is a series of glass vases that sit on charred wood. The vases are hand-blown, thick and heavy, with a form that is a nod to the liquid state of the glass before being shaped. "Always when working with glass I work with the material on its own terms," Vuorivirta says. "It is really nice when you work with glass and it sort of says, 'I want to be like this, I want to be slightly fat.'"

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credit Noir mirrors; Christofer Yevenes Zagal

Her other works continue to explore materials. Urban Shoreline is a collection of vases created in Jesmonite (a combination of plastic and plaster), while Nomad is a series of highly polished brass mirrors that are folded in a severe manner to reflect the space of the rooms they occupy. It seems that Vuorivirta is enjoying the freedom that being at the start of her career is offering. But her scattergun approach to materials is underpinned by a rigorous investigation of the possibilities they afford. Her work is also united by her unapologetically Nordic approach to craft, albeit with a modern twist. Her inspiration, she says, lies in the landscape of her homeland. "Is it a cliché to say I am inspired by nature? Not taking colours or composition directly from nature – it is more about a feeling. I am inspired by our winter when everything is covered by snow and becomes one. The silence and stillness is something I want to capture." So, does Vuorivirta consider herself a minimalist? "Definitely," she replies. It just seems at the moment she is quite a noisy one.

 

Image

Osma Harvilahti

 

Words

Owen Pritchard

quotes story

Is it a cliché to say I am inspired by nature? Not taking colours or composition directly from nature – it is more about a feeling

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