Designer and screen printer Jonna Saarinen is not bashful when it comes to colour and pattern. Her beautiful eco-printed and sustainably sourced textiles are inspired by happy memories of summers spent by the sea in southwest Finland. As well as her Hundreds and Thousands collection, Jonna will be showcasing a 4 metre one-off piece at this months London Design festival, Tent.
She also shares with us an exclusive silk screen tutorial, which you’ll find at the end of this interview.
Come with us for a peek behind the screens, and hear of her love for Mid Century architecture, memories by the seaside and dreams of discussing top hats with Moomin Papa and Ringo Starr…
1. Your Hundreds and Thousands collection is all about memories and the experiences you had growing up by the sea in Finland. How do you think this collection would compare to the new memories you’ve made since living in London?
I think the London collection would be just as busy, colourful and happy! The memories here are also about growing up, but actually finding my feet as an adult as I was only eighteen years old when I moved over. As a grown up my adventures have been different to the ones I had as child running around in the forest, but just as crazy and eventful – I would not change a thing!
2. What’s your creative routine – studio, kitchen table, caffeinated beverage of choice, music, silence?
Oh, I quite like to take my crayons, watercolours and some Indian ink, and go and sit outside. Back home in Finland, I like to sit on the rocks by the Baltic Sea and do my drawing.
3. If you could invite any three people from history to dinner, who would you invite?
I would send my invitations to Moomin Papa, Joseph Paxton and Ringo Starr – we could discuss adventures, architecture and top hats.
4. What is it about screen printing as a medium that appeals to you?
I love everything about it really – from mixing the inks and over printing to create new colours, to the fact that it can be quite temperamental at times (sometimes it can just go wrong, and then the best thing is to take a day off!) Also, when you get new artwork on the screens and you get to test them on fabric for the first time, it’s always amazing as it changes the whole dynamics of the previously flat drawings.
5. If you had a time machine that could take you anywhere, where would you go and what would you do?
Oh this is a really tough one! I think I would transport myself to Victorian London and see the Crystal Palace in all its glory here in South London – that would be just mind blowing! I would also love to see how the area surrounding Crystal Palace, which has now been my home for the past seven years would have looked during that time.
6. What 5 things can’t you live without?
Family, friends, the seaside, camping and my late grandmother’s silver locket.
7. What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as an artist?
I feel like my work is very driven by nostalgia, and times gone by inspire me. Inspiration can come from anything really, and though I find nature very inspiring I also love good Mid Century architecture. Currently my absolutely favourite building is the Crystal Palace National Sport Centre in south London – there is something really calming about the high wooden ceilings and the gorgeous concrete. If I ever feel stuck, a good long swim there will make sure I am back on track in no time!
8. We love your use of bright and bold colours in your work. Which artists/designers inspire you most?
I love Tove Jansson, and all her work from very early paintings to the Moomins – and as a Finn I am also very attracted to all the early Maija Isola and Marimekko patterns with their big, bold colours. I love design that makes me happy and makes me laugh!
9. When are you happiest?
Either on the road in our beloved baby blue VW camper van, or on the Finnish archipelago, picking berries and walking barefoot!
10. What advice would you give to aspiring crafters wanting to start their own businesses?
Don’t give up – it hard work, but so worth it – there is never a dull day and every single week is different!
Catch Jonna Saarinen and her beautiful work at FINNISH FORM, Tent London, stand M12 (Hall T3-C) on 24th-27th September: Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street, London, E1 6QR
Block Printed Tea Towel tutorial
- Plain tea towel
- Fab foam (can be found in all art shops)
- Piece of wood to make you block
- Spray mount / glue
- Fabric paints – 2 colours (available online and in all good art shops)
1. Draw your design onto the fab foam, and cut the shape out with scissors. Top tip: Bigger shapes work better than small ones, I like to go with big bold ones like circles!
2. Glue your shape to the wooden block, and wait for it to completely dry. Lay your tea towel down onto a flat surface, and pin or sellotape the corners in place to stop from slipping. Top tip: Always cover the area you are working on with an table cloth, towel, or a piece of card, so you don’t end up printing on you table!
3. When your shape has been glued down, paint the fab foam with your fabric paint by using a paint brush. Top tip: Avoid going over the foam to have a clean print, and different brushes leave different marks, why not to dry a sponge brush!
4. Press your block, that has been painted, down on to your fabric and hold down.
5. Repeat the process, and paint your block each time before pressing it down.
6. After you have printed the first row, clean your block by wiping it clean and you are ready to change colour.
7. Continue printing as before with your new colour. Top tip: If you overlay your colours, you will create a third colour. This works best with light colours.
8. Repeat the process, and swap colours after each row until you have filled your towel with colour!
9. All textile paints / inks need to be fixed by heat. Follow the instructions on the inkpot how to this at home (the easiest way is by an ironing), and your towel will become washable. Top tip: Hang your new towel in your kitchen to brighten up those washing up days!