SPEECH GIVEN BY MRS EEVA AHTISAARI
AT THE OPENING OF THE EXHIBITION 'WOMEN IN CRAFT AND DESIGN'
AT DESIGN FORUM FINLAND ON JUNE 12, 1997
The history of Finnish fine and applied arts is being rewritten all the time. This year, Finnish women artists have been in the limelight more than ever before. Numerous forgotten women artists and pioneers in the applied arts have been elevated to the ranks of traditional heroes of the art world.
Both men and women, often as couples, were involved in the great task of promoting the Finnish arts during their heyday. Many talented women artists were also pioneers in the applied arts at the turn of the century. One of these 'forgotten' but now rediscovered artists is Eva Mannerheim Sparre, who specialized in leatherwork, and was the first teacher in her field in Finland. An exhibition of Mannerheim Sparre's' interesting and versatile artistic works was opened in May at the Porvoo Museum.
The contribution made by women to the applied arts has been particularly impressive in such fields as textiles, ceramics and glass. Uhra-Beata Simberg's ryijy rugs, Dora Jung's tapestries, Maija Isola's printed fabrics and Irma Kukkasjärvi's and Maija Lavonen's ryijy rugs are an integral part of the history of Finnish applied arts.
The ceramic works of Toini Muona, Kyllikki Salmenhaara and Rut Bryk have also created a fine tradition and a model to follow. Among artists working with glass, Gunnel Nyman, Aino Aalto, Nanny Still and Kerttu Nurminen have played a role in establishing the Finnish art glass tradition.
Women have also been pioneers in other fields of applied arts. Lisa Johansson-Pape's lights, Annika Rimala's shirts, Vuokko Nurmesniemi's dresses, and Marja Suna's knitwear and Pirkko Stenros's furniture have all opened up and modernized the concept of utility ware. Women have played a strong and powerful role in modernizing the applied arts.
This 'Women in Craft and Design' exhibition is one manifestation of this diverse tradition and of its permanence. The exhibition, which is one of the events in Finland's 80th anniversary celebrations, presents the work of today's women in the applied arts and crafts. The artists invited to exhibit - Brita Flander, Tuula Falk, Kristina Riska, Janna Syvänoja and Ulla-Maija Vikman - use different materials, but share a common goal: the maintenance and modernization of a living tradition.
The 'Women in Craft and Design' exhibition is a tribute to the women of Finnish applied arts. It is a bridge between the past and the future. The artists represented are from a generation which is continuing the Finnish tradition of applied arts and crafts, but are above all actively involved in building its future.
Women's work has always played an important role in society. I wish every luck and success to the artists represented in this exhibition, in their work now and in the future.