The secret world of COMPANY

The secret world of COMPANY

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The Finnish-Korean design practice COMPANY has its studio in Helsinki, but its founders dream far beyond the boundaries of Finland’s capital. Traveling the world to uncover the secrets of local craft expertise, they find inspiration for their playful and imaginative designs.

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In their light filled Helsinki studio, founders Aamu Song and Johan Olin of the Finnish-Korean design practice COMPANY draw, paint, sew and mold clay. Going for contemplative walks to the nearby coast with their dog Yaya, their creative process is often a silent one. “When you don’t speak,” Aamu and Johann say, “you learn much faster.” This approach results in designs of great beauty, originality and charm.

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The motivation for all COMPANY Secrets: curiosity

Their dreams take them far beyond the boundaries of Helsinki; Song and Olin have discovered a novel way to explore the world, finding inspiration along the way. From Estonia to Russia, the USA, Korea and Japan, the duo seeks out traditional manufacturers at remote factories that retain local craftsmanship and expertise – for whom they then create contemporary designs. The products that are the result of these collaborations feel akin to uncovered secrets. “When we travel, we sometimes fall in love with new countries, cities, nature, and things. Often with people too.”

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Inspired by crafts skills, nature, people – and animals

Song and Olin’s search can be seen as a treasure hunt. Their process is interpretive and all about discovery. Not knowing what they will find, the duo must allow the forms of expertise they encounter to shape their ideas. Each country they visit tells them “where to go next”.

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Textile, wood, clay: experiments with all kinds of material happen in the little Helsinki studio

But Helsinki is home and the place where Song and Olin came up with their contribution to Artek’s FIN/JPN Friendship Collection. To arrive at the designs, the duo asked themselves what gifts the Finnish delegation might have brought to Japan in 1919 to inaugurate Finnish-Japanese diplomatic relations.

“In Finland, we are rich in nature, cities, architecture and furniture, but not so much in little memory pieces or ritual objects. Not many visitors can see and do what locals do, since much happens deep in the forest or at the lakeside,” Song and Olin say. So after much thought, they created a family of ceramics for Artek, each inspired by a Finnish seasonal or national ritual. Decorative and functional, the ceramics evoke the animist traditions of both Finland and Japan, and would have done a fine job of illuminating Finnish culture and folklore one hundred years ago.

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Secrets of Finland – evoking the animist, pagan pasts of Finland

The Pauper Coin Collector, the Midsummer Dream Vase, the Lucia Candleholder, the Easter Witch Vase, and the Easter Dog Vase – each design illustrates a tradition connected to the Finnish seasons. Drawing deeply on tradition and nature, playful and imaginative, COMPANY’s designs continue to be recognised throughout the world. Their work can be found in the permanent collections of Design Museum Finland, EMMA Museum of Modern Art, Finland, Helsinki Art Museum HAM, Finland and The Icelandic Design Museum, and has been shown at Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York.

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