aino-maija metsola | finnish illustrator & designer

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Here at kettu we adore all things Finnish and when you have someone as amazingly creative as Aino-Maija Metsola whose accomplishments include creating the enchanting series The Learning Garden (translated into more than 11 languages worldwide) and an award winning designer for Marimekko we were very keen to get to know more about her.

We understand that you live with your husband and Dachshund (Turo) in Helsinki, that is on the historically famous fortress island Suomenlinna (the eldest sister at kettu has been lucky enough to explore the island). Please share with us what you love about living in Helsinki?

Helsinki is just big enough so that there are many interesting things to see and do but the nature is still close which is very important for me. There are many wonderful islands just out of Helsinki. And in the city it’s quite easy to go everywhere on a bike, you don’t need a car.


In Marimekko in Patterns you mention that even when you are not working your subconscious is collecting inspiration and new pattern ideas. How do you find being creative whilst juggling deadlines?

Nowadays I try to be very careful so that I don’t take too much work. I tend to get excited on every new project opportunity and my work is based on a passion that is a big part of my personality so it has been a long learning process to find balance with work and everything else in my life. Having deadlines is not a problem for me, I like them in a way. As long as there are not many deadlines at the same time.

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Flora, fauna and landscapes all feature in different ways in your impressive body of designs and we understand that you actively change up your sketching and drawing techniques from aquarelle to felt pen, collage etc as varied techniques = varied thinking. Can you please share with us three of your favourite designs.

I think this changes, I usually find the project that I’m at the time working on the most interesting. But if I try to mention something, the Weather Diary collection for Marimekko is a project that I feel quite good about as it’s also quite personal. Of my older work I have always likes Juhannustaika fabric. It was the second design I made for Marimekko but for be it still doesn’t look old. Of my most recent work I like the Virginia Woolf cover I designed for Penguin.


The delightful Traffic Jam and Animal Parade books have sold out several times since we launched kettu, would you mind describing your creative process to get from ideas to print?

I was contacted by Rachel Williams from Wide Eyed Editions and she asked me if I was interested in making a series of children’s concept books with them. I said yes as I liked their approach on book making and I have always been interested in illustrating books for children. I started with two books called Colours and Counting and some time after that we made the two next ones, Traffic Jam and Animal parade. It has been a close collaboration with the Wide Eyed Editions, they have been suggesting ideas for new books and after some discussion we have decided what to do and how to do it. I concentrate on the look, illustration and layout and the people at Wide Eyed Editions work with the more technical parts of the process. As I’m not a native English speaker the publishers have also taken care of the text in these books.

On the topic of books you recently worked with Vintage Classics to design covers for 6 Virginia Woolf books. Did you find it challenging designing artwork for the modernists classics?

Yes I found it challenging at first but also very inspiring. And I felt humble. In the end I think I came up with the illustrations quite quickly, after getting to know the material and what we were looking for in the covers I just sat down and painted them.

We confess to purchasing a copy of Surrur by Mari Savio & Kati Rapia whilst holidaying in Helsinki. Only snag is that the copy we have is in Finnish so we have had to put itranslate to use. Have you always sewed and are there any other handicrafts you enjoy?

I knit a lot, sweaters and accessories, toys sometimes. I sew occasionally, not that often, I think I’m better at knitting and find it more relaxing.

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Lastly we’ve read that the Finnish archipelago and St Petersberg and two of your favourite travel destinations could you please share why you love to holiday in these places.

Well, it’s been years since I last visited St Petersburg. I think at the time I mentioned it I was traveling there more often. I find it interesting, full of stories and surprises, but also a little exhausting and full of disharmony.

We have a sailing boat and we always tend to spend a few weeks of the summer in the archipelago. I like to travel slowly, I don’t enjoy flying that much. 

Fall in love and explore kettu's range of Aino-Maija's designs here

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