Hanna-Kaisa Korolainen was inspired by two rya rugs
Hanna-Kaisa Korolainen was inspired by two rya rugs: The Flame (in Finnish: Liekki) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela and the Seagull (In Finnish: Lokki) by Jarl Eklund
The Flame (in Finnish: Liekki)
Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931) was a multitalented Finnish artist, sometimes titled as the Finnish national painter, whose skills stretched from painting in oil and aquarelle to graphic art, frescoes and arts and crafts. When Finland gained independence in 1917, he also planned uniforms and medals for the army and took part in designing the flag and coins for Finland. Gallen-Kallela began his art studies in Helsinki. In the age of 19, he continued his studies at the Académie Julian in Paris, where he stayed during the years 1884-1889. Finnish nature, people and the national epic Kalevala played a central role in his art.
Gallen-Kallela had acquired a private collection of old Finnish rya-rugs dating from the 18th century and brought some of them to Paris. He used these ryas in his ateljé as bench covers and you can spot them in his interiors from that time. Gallen-Kallela also used the colorful textiles later in his Finnish ateljé house in Ruovesi, to decorate the house indoors and outdoors during festivities, the way rya rugs were used in manor houses during the 16th century.
Since 1809 Finland was autonomous Grand Duchy as a part of the Russian Empire, and towards the end of the century the so-called russification period started. This created a growing nationalistic movement in Finland, which in the arts was expressed in the so called national romantic style or Finnish art nouveau.
The Finnish participation in the World’s Fair in Paris 1900 played a most important role in this process. The Finnish pavillion was designed by the young architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen in national romantic style. They asked Akseli Gallen-Kallela to decorate the central hall with frescoes inspired by the Kalevala. A textile design competition for living room textiles was organised by the Friends of Finnish Handicraft and the Iris furniture company, but the results were meagre. Eventually, Gallen-Kallela was asked to design the living room. The so-called Iris-room was awarded with a gold medal for its textiles and silver medal for the furniture.
Gallen-Kallela planned two big rugs for the Iris-room, the floor rug Miekka (in English: Sword) and the bench rug which later got the title Liekki, which means flame in Finnish. Gallen-Kallela also designed furnishing fabrics and other textiles using tapestry technique (gobelin) for the room. In the original rya rug design there were blue flame-like shapes on a light background, with an ornamental frame in green and brown, reminiscent of borders in old Finnish rya rugs. However, to fit the small space the rya rug had to be woven without the ornamental frame. Gallen-Kallela designed many versions of the Flame, the last one in 1915. Not until 1965 was the original design woven for the first time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the artist.
Akseli Gallen-Kallela knew how to weave and was familiar with the rya technique. He was therefore able to combine technique and form in the best possible way in his rya rug designs. It is often stated that The Flame was the first modern Finnish rya-rug. The original is in the collection of the Gallen-Kallela Museum in Espoo. Other copies are kept for example in the Hvitträsk museum of Kirkkonummi, Finland – the home of Eliel Saarinen – and in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The original blue version of the Flame, with and without the ornamental frame, and the red version are still available today in the sales collection of The Friends of Finnish Handicraft. It can be ordered as a DIY-kit, either to be sewn or woven, or as a ready-made rya rug. It is still one of the most loved Finnish rya rug patterns, crafted by many for their own home.
The Seagull (in Finnish: Lokki)
The Seagull is a big bench rya rug designed by architect Jarl Eklund in 1907 for the Hypoteksföreningen mortgage association building in Helsinki. The textile depicts a circle of flying seagulls around a huge wave. This Japonistic composition in different blue hues is called the Wave in the original drawing. There are two copies of this rya rug in the collection of Design Museum Helsinki. They are really tightly woven and dense, because of their function as both rug and bench cover.
Jarl Eklund (1876-1962) designed mainly commercial and industrial buildings and private houses, for example the ultra-modern Nikolajeff car dealer building in Helsinki (1913) and the estate of paper industry magnate Gösta Serlachius, Joenniemi manor (1935) – today part of Serlachius Museums in Mänttä, but this is the only rya rug that we know from him. The connection to rya design possibly came through his architect colleagues. Rya rugs and bench rugs were used in the greatest works of Finnish architecture at that time. Until founding his own office in 1905, Eklund worked in the architecture office of Gesellius-Lindgren-Saarinen which designed the Suur-Merijoki manor house in 1903 with all 15 rya rugs. Some of the Finnish architects were ardent rya rug designers like Eliel Saarinen, Eklund’s brother-in-law, who included the rya rug called Rose (in Finnish: Ruusu) in the boudoir interior that he designed for the 25th anniversary exhibition of The Friends of Finnish Handicraft in 1904.
Annikki Toikka-Karvonen 1971. Ryijy. Helsinki: Otava.
Akseli Gallen-Kallela 1865–1931, 1985. Espoo: Gallen-Kallelan museo Tarvaspää.
Ars. Suomen Taide 4, 1989. Eds. Salme Sarajas-Korte et al. Weilin & Göös.
Päikki Priha (Ed.) 1999. Rakkaat Ystävät. Suomen Käsityön Ystävät 120 vuotta. Helsinki: Ajatus.