Lokal Creators / Milla Vaahtera

Milla Vaahtera is a designer and artist best known for her unique pieces combining bold glass parts with delicate brass. The themes of her works extend from body image and sexuality to intuition and collaboration in the creative process. The process of making her pieces is based on dialogue and improvisation with the glassblowers, as Vaahtera loves the unexpected outcomes and finding the balancing tension in the final form. On a winter’s day earlier this year we visited her studio in an old elementary school building in Helsinki, where she assembles her pieces. Her unique pendant lamps as well as tabletop sculptures have been a part of Lokal’s permanent selection for several years now, and we could not be more honoured to be presenting Milla’s works. 

Lokal Creators / Milla Vaahtera

Milla Vaahtera is a designer and artist best known for her unique pieces combining bold glass parts with delicate brass. The themes of her works extend from body image and sexuality to intuition and collaboration in the creative process. The process of making her pieces is based on dialogue and improvisation with the glassblowers, as Vaahtera loves the unexpected outcomes and finding the balancing tension in the final form. On a winter’s day earlier this year we visited her studio in an old elementary school building in Helsinki, where she assembles her pieces. Her unique pendant lamps as well as tabletop sculptures have been a part of Lokal’s permanent selection for several years now, and we could not be more honoured to be presenting Milla’s works.

Lokal: What are some of the things that inspire your creative process?

Milla: “I’m inspired by everything and find influences all around me. I have always been very creative, to the point of ruining tools and paint brushes on my way. Besides my own artistic work, I’m very passionate about new movements in design and craft. Finnish design is well known for its ultra functional approach, but the new generation of designers, artists and makers are pushing the traditional crafts towards art with their unique pieces and small series. I see this as a counter movement to mass production. I always use a minimum of 10% of my time to mentor, support and lift up my colleagues and younger generations of creatives. Working with other artists inspires me and fills me with light.”

L: What are some important principles in your work and your approach to your practice?

M: “Traditionally craft has been an area where professionals avoid failure. Lack of failure makes them good. Education of craft is also all about minimising failure. I’m revolutionary in embracing failure in the craft process. I always find new techniques via failure. Failure is not opposite to success, it’s a necessary part of it. When I find the flow of “not giving a shit” in my work, I find freedom and fun, and achieve the best work. Embracing failure shuts up the critical comments in my head and I’m liberated. In the hotshop I collaborate with talented glassblowers and the glass parts are created in the method of play and improvisation. Working with this process is sometimes difficult in a team because creative work is so very vulnerable. I do my best to create a flow of acceptance and play to help the team work from excitement. My usual team consists of the glassblowers Paula Pääkkönen, Sani Lappalainen, Otto Koivuranta and other talents from Nuutajärvi. In the metal workshop it would be with my mum, silversmith Kirsi Kokkonen.”

L: What brought you to working with glasswork and metal? What significance does the material have in your design and production processes?

M: “I fell in love with glass when I first saw glass blowing. It chose me. When I found myself in the glass hot shop after working with many mediums, I started to learn the do’s and don’ts of glass making with the gentle guidance from the glass blowers I collaborated with. I fell in love with the don’ts, the mistakes. The pieces where you could see the moment of melt in the final work are always my favourites. And I felt that now I work in dialogue with glass. I learned to use improvisation at the moment to maintain the wild nature of glass. Glass is like me, spontaneous and organic. Both of my parents are goldsmiths. My childhood was all about listening to goldsmiths talk about their craft and the sounds and the smells of the workshop. I feel proud to continue using the same tools and to develop the craft. I feel secure at my metal workshop even when my creative process is wild and I feel lost. My workshop is home to my creative inner child.”

Shop: Milla Vaahtera’s Works

Explore: Lokal Creators

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Minna Arponen is a jewellery designer and maker from Helsinki. Recently, she’s been fascinated by the tiny glass beads that she used to play with in her childhood. We visited her studio where most of her pieces take form, if not in her lap on tram rides through the city.

Lokal Creators / Pan Jianfeng

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