Kati Peltola is a Finnish glass artist who is inspired by the endless potential of glass as a material. Her glass rings are part of the Imaginary Garden exhibition at Institut finlandais, organised in collaboration with design collective UU Market. During her residency at Cité des Arts in Paris, we invited Kati to discuss her creative work with us. 


Could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do? 

I’m Kati Peltola and I’m a glass artist. I make glass using the flaming technique, which is basically the welding of glass. I use glass sticks that I melt locally in the flame. It’s like glass-blowing, but on a much smaller scale. I mainly make jewellery and small sculptures with this technique. My works often play with the aesthetics of utilitarian objects while being wonky in a way. I also work part-time as a graphic designer at the Amos Rex Museum in Helsinki.


The title of the exhibition is “Imaginary Garden”. What role does imagination play in your creative process? 

Imagination comes in when I sit in front of the flame. I don’t usually plan what I do. The pieces are born purely from the process of making. In handcrafts, the process of making the work is equally important as the final form. And because I’m still practising, my creations are often entirely the product of my imagination.


Your works have very organic shapes, some of them even look like water or ice. How does nature inspire your work?

I want my work to look organic and natural, to show it’s been made with my own hands. In some of my work I also try to replicate flowers, for example. I am interested in the literal representation of nature. For example, I am fascinated by the ‘Ware Collection’ of glass artwork by the Czech father and son Leopold (1822-1895) and Rudolf (1857-1939) Blaschka for Harvard University, which has a large amount of realistic glass flowers. However, I do not think or feel that nature directly inspires my work. Sure, being and walking in nature is grounding, which is probably a rather typical Finnish sentiment. 


Could you tell us about your relationship with glass as your main material?

Glass has always fascinated me. I got acquainted with it when studying contemporary design at Aalto University. At the time, I was also working at the Iittala flagship-store, where I learned a lot about glass as a material. It’s very common for people to be fascinated by glass, for example by glass marble balls. When I was a child, I had one of those paperweights with a glass world inside. I could stare at it for hours, it was something one could have played with forever. 

For me, material comes first. I have a designer background so I approach material a bit differently than craftspersons. Craftsmanship emphasises technical knowledge, fine-tuning technical skills and striving for perfection. My work lies somewhere between craftsmanship and design. I take inspiration from craftspeople, but the most important thing in my artistic work is experimentation and seeing the potential of the material I am working with. I don’t strive to be perfect. 


We are exhibiting your glass rings in our gallery. Could you tell us a bit about them?  

My glass rings are little art pieces that you can carry with you. They are for the moments that you want to remember. Every moment is fleeting, ephemeral. This ring can also disappear or break. This is maybe the poetic side of them.  


Before your residency at the Cité des Arts, you’ve already worked in Paris, for example in Montmartre as a student of Ulysse Sauvage. You’ve also done a residency in New York. How does the environment affect your creative work?  

My eyes open up in a completely different way when there’s more to see. Everywhere I go here, I always pause if I see some glass rings or glass jewellery. Seeing how things are done elsewhere is really important, especially as there are still few people in my field in Finland. So it’s a bit of a necessity to go elsewhere to learn. The chance to work with peers brings me a lot, the kind of meta-knowledge you can’t learn from books. You just have to learn by doing it or seeing someone else doing it.


You seem to be working on several projects at the same time. How do you find balance between creativity and other work? 

Now, the balance has worked pretty well because I have this other job. It takes a certain pressure out of my creative work. Of course, I sometimes feel like I don’t have enough time for creativity, which entails a lot of just being and doing nothing. One should not underestimate the importance of doing nothing for an artist. 


You are part of the UU Market collective. How does it feel to be part of this group exhibiting here at Institut finlandais? 

It’s absolutely wonderful to have this opportunity to be here with the other artists. It’s an honour for me. I’m looking forward to seeing how the works by different artists communicate together. A big appreciation must go to Hannakaisa Pekkala as well. She is absolutely wonderful and full of ideas. She is good at choosing artists who don’t represent old traditional Finnish making – I think all the other artists in the exhibition would agree. Finnish design is in transition and I believe that this new generation of design will appeal to people in Paris. I have a feeling that people will be attracted to this kind of, even crazy, design.


What do you think are  the reasons for the transformation of Finnish design?

Times have changed. There used to be in-house designers who were given the platform to experiment and try out different things. That is no longer the case. I think that this change is a reflection of the famous Finnish “sisu” of designers at some level, as they now reclaim the role of manufacturer and directly look abroad. They are doing their own thing and own expression, without commissions. And I think this is something that interests people. 


What next? Could you tell us a bit about your new projects and dreams? 

I hope for a steady everyday life this year, which also means more time for creativity. To be able to make things at a slow pace and experiment freely. In the future, I would like to expand my jewellery collection. I’m also really interested in different kinds of collaboration with other artists and designers.

Text by Saara Lehtonen