As part of the New Finnish Design Scenarios, several Finnish design companies presented a workshop during an extended weekend in New York’s Meatpacking District. This active workshop was made up of students from New York’s Pratt Institute and Helsinki’s Alvar Aalto University School of Art and Design, and together they worked to find solutions in the fields of furniture and product design.
Sebastian Jansson, a Finnish students, explained, “There are five design companies involved in the New Finnish Design Scenarios, and their owners or representatives are all here. The students will create a background analysis of the current state of the company and what can be done with the company in order to integrate them on the U.S. market.”
The goal was to create something concrete as a Helsinki/NY Collection. The students were divided into two rotating groups (different constellations every day) who worked on huge tables where they jotted down their design ideas. They spent four hours on each company, following a sheet with several tasks written on it, like mapping out the background of the company and its potential, and analyzing the company’s product portfolio. On the last day, the two groups presented their Helsinki/NY Collection for each of the five companies.
Over sandwiches from Swedish Fika during a break on the third day, Nordstjernan caught up with Heidy Garay and Jennifer Gillespie from the Pratt Institute.
“It’s been very educational, exciting and lots of fun, engaging," Heidy said when asked how things were going. "It’s been good to speak with the owners of these companies, which are companies we admire for their design. It’s a big opportunity to bring them to the U.S.”
“The owners and representatives have been very generous with their time. They’re actively participating,” said Jennifer.
What was it like to work with the Finnish students?
“They may have a different perspective, and they are also more familiar with the companies, but we all have the same design thinking,” Heidy said.
Woodnotes, a Finnish design company founded in 1987 by textile artist Ritva Puotila and her son Mikko Puotila, was one of the participating companies. Their concept is to combine artistic creativity with advanced technology to shape the Finnish raw materials wood and paper. Woodnotes became first in the world to use paper yarn in a contemporary way in functional textiles. The students working on Woodnotes’ profile and future came up with a host of great ideas, such as combining the paper with other natural materials to add new texture and to provide a certain amount of support, partnering with another designer (such as one in the field of lighting), finding alternative industries (such as the high-end auto industry) and having part of the production process be in the U.S.
Mikka Puotila looked at the presentation clearly pleased; he caught the students’ excitement. We asked if he heard anything he might want to incorporate into Woodnotes.
“Yes, yes. Some of the ideas presented we have already tried, or are currently trying, but other ideas were very fresh and very interesting to me. Such as the one to combine paper with other materials. Of course, the other material must not be distracting from the paper. I also thought it was surprising that they came up with the idea of having us do things for pets and children. It was great.”
You looked a little worried when they suggested you put part of the production in the U.S.!”
“Yes, I mean, is it going to say ‘Made in the U.S.’ then? It can’t be—we are Finnish.”