Every month, Institut finlandais highlights creatives whose work sheds light on today’s Finland and France. In January, we shared a moment with Antrei Hartikainen, who is a master cabinetmaker and designer based in the village of Fiskars in Finland, and well known for his exquisite works in wood. The laureate 2018 of the Design Forum Finland’s Young Designer of the Year prize, the works of Antrei Hartikainen will be exhibited at the gallery of Institut finlandais from January 10th through April 13th 2019.

The laureate 2018 of the Design Forum Finland’s Young Designer of the Year prize, Hartikainen is a master cabinetmaker and designer based in the village of Fiskars in Finland, and well known for his exquisite works in wood.

Could you tell us something about your background, how did you first get into carpentry, cabinetmaking and furniture design?

Since my youth, I have been very interested in doing things with my hands. My father had a kitchen/woodworking company where I was able to make small works for myself as a hobby and also being a little helper in all kind of simple tasks. Later on having summer jobs there. That lead me to vocational school into wood artisan studies. Basics of designing were also part of the education. From there started my path into the wood material and designing. Since 2010 I have been living and working in a small Fiskars village in Southern Finland. It’s known as a hub for art, crafts and design.

How would you describe your design philosophy?

I aim to create long lasting pieces with honest decisions while the process of designing and making. It’s possible with thoughtful use of materials, techniques and details. I want that people who see and own my works get inspired from the high quality craftsmanship, finished details and aesthetic itself.

How was it working on the Carte Blanche exhibition for Institut finlandais?

It was a great possibility to show a mixture of my works; furniture, sculptures, collaboration with glass and many smaller products. Also I made many totally new pieces for the exhibition.

You regularly collaborate with other artists, designers and manufacturers. What would be your dream collaboration, and with whom?

I’m not able to decide one dream collaboration, there is just, too many. Anyway in one of them I would like to work in group of other designers where everyone of them have their own specific material knowledgement. In collaboration we could create collection of furniture and objects which are made in small batches with carefully selected materials and details.

Photo: Antrei Hartikainen

Could you tell something about your recent collaboration with Katriina Nuutinen and the Vieno glass collection, which is also featured in the Carte Blanche exhibition?

Collaboration with Katriina has been really easy going and pleasant. We both are originally from North Karelia and we have the same kind of mindset. Collaboration have come together naturally and without any forcing. You can see that in the finished works where the glass and wood design goes seamlessly together. Numbered serie of Vieno bottles are made of mouth blown glass with different color possibilities and the wooden caps are hand carved so every piece is unique. With wood elaboration and surface finishing I have create an illusion of the material. Just closer studying reveals that it is wood.

What kind of wood do you like to use? Is there any other material that you would like to explore in the future?

Selection of wood material goes always hand by hand in needs of the end product. I like to work with linden wood in more sculptural works because it is pleasant to work with. On the other hand, I would never do furniture out of it because of needed durability. All the wood species have usually a bunch of good and bad feature; looks, strength, workability, ecological, etc. Then just need to pick the most suitable for each project. Most common wood species what I use are maple, walnut, linden wood, oak and ash. In the future, I’m also interested to work with ceramic and glass.

I spot interesting shapes and subjects in everything, from nature to architecture and our everyday environment.

What does your perfect day look like? What gives you inspiration?

Interesting factory visits. I’m fascinated by different kind of processes, how things are done by machinery, hand techniques or a combination of both. Places where I have the chance to observe and wonder all the things what I’m surrounded by. I spot interesting shapes and subjects in everything, from nature to architecture and our everyday environment. Also, I find it really inspirational how lights and shadows make their play for different kind of surfaces.

In your work, you combine traditional carpentry skills and Finnish wood processing with contemporary design. Your work is often described as something that oscillates between the definitions art and utility. Do you sometimes feel that you have to make compromises between aesthetics and function?

I feel that it’s always some kind of compromise in a way or other, and usually, it’s making the work just better. In my case, it’s not that I’m forced to make compromises, it’s because I like to make it so. That way I can create personal and artistic products and in other hand functional sculptures.

Photo: Antrei Hartikainen
Photo: Kari Nyyssönen

Could you tell something about your upcoming projects for 2019?

To name a few upcoming projects. I’m continuing to work with Nikari, Poiat and also some new brands. During 2019 Lokal gallery presents some of my new and old works at different art&design events. In the Fiskars village, there will be a big summer exhibition TEHDAS / FABRIK / FACTORY where I develop new sculptural lighting installation. Also next year in the same village it’s starting Fiskars Art & Design Biennale and with the team of architects and fine woodworkers, we create a big wooden installation. Otherwise, I will continue designing and making new pieces and participating in different kind of exhibitions all around the world.

In parallel with the Carte Blanche exhibition, your January visit to Paris will also mark the beginning of our new visit program IF Studios. Besides working on the exhibition, how are you planning to spend your time in Paris?

For sure enjoying the atmosphere in Paris. Visiting galleries, places for design enthusiasm and museums. Contacting new people. I try to concentrate also on developing new designs and planning the year 2019 further.

Antrei Hartikainen