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MILLA VAAHTERA

MILLA VAAHTERA

1. Where were you born and where are you from ?

I was born in Finland when my parents were just graduating as goldsmiths. We moved to Northern Norway to live in a small artisan community. The community was built around a company that made silver jewelry. I have been at different workshops all my life, with my mom trying to keep me away from the poisons and flames. Northern Norway is very rugged, and in a way I feel that those hot workshops and the wild nature are part of me.

2. What is your first memory connected to the art world ?

My grandmother was a history teacher with a fantastic method of giving me a strong art education. She was also referred to as “a too independent woman” at her time. After moving to Helsinki she would take me out to see an art exhibition every Wednesday. For example, when the Frida Kahlo exhibition was at Helsinki Art Museum we saw a movie about her and I got a book about her life. She gave me such a fantastic understanding of art and my parents as Goldsmiths gave me a doorway to craft that I feel really grateful for.

3. Have you always worked in the art/design field ?

I graduated as a Master of Arts in 2010 from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture and did my BA studies in Lahti Institute of Design in 2008. I was working for some years as an industrial designer, but started to self sabotage my career. I was waiting for someone else to tell me that I’m doing the wrong job, but nobody did. Finally I decided to escape from industrial design to the art end of design. My master in metal work would definitely be my family. My mom, dad and godfather are all goldsmiths. When I started to do mobile sculptures, my mom graciously let me into her workshop and has taught me everything I know.

4. What led you to the design creation ?

I have always been very creative, to the point of ruining tools and paint brushes in my way. If I could stop creating I probably still wouldn’t.

5. How would you describe your creative process and it influences ?

The creative process is the most important thing to me in my work. I also teach creative process and that has led me to where I´m today. Traditionally craft has been an area where professionals avoid failure. Lack of failure makes them good. Education of craft is also all about minimizing failure. I’m revolutionary in embracing failure in the craft process. I always find new techniques via failure. Failure is not opposite to success, it’s a necessary part of it. When I find the flow of “not giving a shit” in my work, I find freedom and fun, and achieve the best work. Embracing failure shuts up the critical comments in my head and I’m liberated. I´m inspired by everything and find influences all around me.

6. Could you describe a typical day of your work ?

Most days I work with brass. We have two workshops with goldsmith tools, where I solder the parts together, polish them, try out different models, study the movement of the pieces, and make the sockets for the glass pieces. The hotshop days are very different. There is a team of 3-6 glass blowers and a lot of action and ideas flying around. Working with the process of improvisation is sometimes difficult in a team because creative work is so very vulnerable. I do my best to create a flow of acceptance and play to help the team work from excitement. My team is glassblowers Sani Lappalainen, Pauli Vähäsarja, Tommi Tikkinen, Otto Koivuranta, Penna Tornberg, Jonas Paajanen, Henni Eliala, Paula Pääkkönen & my mom silversmith Kirsi Kokkonen.

7. Why did you choose the specific materials you work with ?

I fell in love with glass when I first tried glass blowing. It chose me. When I found myself in the glass hot shop after working with many mediums I started to learn the do’s and don’ts of glass making with the gentle guidance from the glass blowers I collaborated with. I fell in love with the don’ts, the mistakes. The pieces where you could see the moment of melt in the final work are always my favorites.  And I felt that now I work in dialogue with glass. I learned to use improvisation at the moment to maintain the wild nature of glass. Glass is like me, spontaneous and organic. My childhood was all about listening to goldsmiths talk about their craft and the sounds and the smells of the workshop. I feel proud to continue using the same tools and to develop the craft. I feel secure at my metal workshop even when my creative process is wild and I feel lost.

8. What are the technical particularities of your creations ?

Doing things the wrong way, leaving tool marks and loving the mistakes. Well made for me is probably the opposite of what it is to everyone else. I find beauty in the spontaneous and whimsical. However, and unknown to many, in the metalworking I do also appreciate the meditative process of polishing.

9. What advices could you give to beginning artists who would like to create sculptural design works ?

To anyone who wants to create I say: Do whatever excites you the most until it’s done. And then next to this concentrate on what excites you the most. Don’t worry about the “have to”s. Just follow your excitement and see where it takes you.

10. If your works had to belong to a design movement, in which one would you define it ?

Post-Industrial-Craft-Art movement. And I`m on it!

11. What designers have influenced you ?

Oh, I’m so inspired by others. I love anyone who can follow their creative path. I also love those who are still looking for it.

12. What contemporary designers do you appreciate ?

Hannakaisa Pekkala, Veera Kulju, Santtu Mustonen, Laura Pehkonen, Tero Kuitunen, Hanna Anonen, Markus Koistinen, Matilda Palmu, Maija Puoskari, Antrei Hartikainen, Jenni Tuominen, Ville Auvinen to name a few from Finland.

13. What contemporary artists (in any kind of art) have you been inspired by ?

Dora Cheffi, Paavo Halonen & Akira Minagawa to name few.

14. If you had to summarize your creations in one word or sentence, what would it be ?

Poems of the space.

15. Is there anything you would like to add ?

In Finnish glassblowing many things are in danger. Old masters are retiring just as the craft is about to move into a new renaissance. I worry about the knowhow getting lost and the workshops being closed. It is our responsibility to keep the traditional craft alive by finding new contemporary forms and ways of working.

Proust Questionnaire with very short answers (one or a few words) :
(The Proust Questionnaire is a set of questions answered by the French writer Marcel Proust. Other historical figures who have answered confession albums are Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Cézanne…)

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Acceptance of all

2. What is your greatest fear?

Resistance of all

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Messiness

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Overthinking

5. Which living person do you most admire?

My 1-year-old son, Unto

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

Living an artist life

7. What is your current state of mind?

Gratitude

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Doing things right

9. What is the quality you most like in a man?

Energy

10. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Energy

11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Coffee?

12. Which talent would you most like to have?

Patience to learn master carpentry skills

13. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I´m ok

14. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being internally driven

15. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

A great pumpkin

16. Where would you most like to live?

By water and forest

17. What is your most treasured possession?

My cabin

18. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Living in the mind only

19. What is your favorite occupation?

Artist fo sho

20. What is your most marked characteristic?

Extrovert

21. What do you most value in your friends?

Humanity

22. Who are your favorite writers?

John Irving

23. Who is your hero of fiction?

Pippi Longstocking

24. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

25. Who are your heroes in real life?

Gramma & mom

26. What are your favorite names?

Laila, Aili & Mauri

27. What is it that you most dislike?

Panic

28. What is your greatest regret?

Not learning more languages in school

29. How would you like to die?

Surprise me

30. What is your motto?

Follow your highest excitement

Milla Vaahtera process 2
Milla Vaahtera process

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