Reeta Ek is a Helsinki-based textile and surface designer (MA). Her background is in fine arts, but an interest in surfaces and patterns drove her to study textile design in Aalto University. Reeta was awarded as the Young Designer of the Year in 2017, and she has also designed a selection of prints for our Lokal Kollektion.
We interviewed Reeta on the subjects of design, creative process and small-scale production.
Lokal: Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
Reeta: I’m a textile and surface designer, but my background is in fine arts. I spent my childhood in Vihti, but have been living in Helsinki for 19 years already. The island of Lauttasaari has been my home for the last 13 years, and we still live there with my husband and two sons.
I got interested in patterns and repetitive surfaces already when working as a visual artist, and that led me to study textile design in Aalto University. My first art prints were originally created during the process of making my master’s thesis at Aalto. My thesis was about exploring my own artistic style, creative process and sketching. I also wanted to free myself of the traditional methods of textile design, which often focus on filling empty space with repeats of different sizes.
L: How do you design your prints?
R: Although the works in Lokal Kollektion are mostly multicoloured, I always start sketching with black. I draw and paint different elements, which I the scan and continue to work with on my computer. While studying my creative process in my thesis, I found the word “mark-making”, which perfectly describes what I’m interested in: creating different, distinct marks. I often use black ink or acrylic paint and work with a brush, piece of cardboard, toothpick, dried plant or a cotton wool bud. I paint on old projector transparencies, for their slippery surface allows me to paint in many different ways. I have used this method in all prints designed for Lokal Kollektion.
Since my sketching process can be very fast and productive, I end up having a lot of material. I still try to scan all of it, because even the smallest mark can have an important role in a finished work. Going through my scan archives usually leads to the birth of a new work. I choose interesting elements, start arranging and changing colours, and see if new prints start taking form.
L: Which one of your art prints is your own favourite?
R: Many times the work you’ve done is so close to you, that it’s difficult to evaluate it. Luckily I have realised that I still like some of my oldest prints as much as I used to when making them. In the process of making my thesis there was a moment when I started to think about my scetches and arrangements like paintings, not like textiles or repetitive patterns. That moment was a turning point, and for example the print Kukkapuska was made then. It’s still one of my favourite works.
From the work that I’ve designed for Lokal Kollektion, Merihaka is my favourite one at the moment. I was driving my bicycle near Merihaka district in Helsinki, and saw the green lights of the nearby coal plant. The reflections of those lights in the surface of the sea inspired me to design the Merihaka print.
L: Which production principles are important to you?
R: My work is not produced in a large scale, and it has always been important to me to be personally in touch with every single piece that’s made. It’s not possible to have a large amount of prints in stock, so I commission them from the print workshop according to the orders I receive. My prints are made by Mika from PicaScript, which is our local print workshop on my home island Lauttasaari. I cut the large prints myself on our kitchen table, where I also inspect, sign and pack all orders. I buy the cardboard tubes from Pa-Hu, and my father, who lives nearby, brings them to our home. My husband helps with transporting large packages. I could say we have a local, family-run business with many stories to tell.