Our first Recognition Gift goes to ceramicist Saija Halko - honourable mentions go to silversmith Elle Valkeapää and container maker Bo-Åke Ljungars

We have awarded a Finnish artisan with our first Recognition Gift, a new annual award honouring artisan skills. We also shared two special honourable mentions to silversmith Elle Valkeanpää and container maker Bo-Åke Ljungars.

The 2020 jury comprised of journalist Jani Niipola, documentary director Virpi Suutari, designer Samu-Jussi Koski and actress Alma Pöysti. The jury was unanimous in its appreciation of the value of artisanship. ”The current renaissance of artisanship is embraced by the younger generation, too. These artists are enabling the continuity of supremely important traditions.”

The value of the Recognition Gift is 1000 euro.

Recognition Gift winner– Saija Halko

Jury’s rationale: “Saija Halko has succeeded in bringing traditional art to the present day. Her beautiful objects have a rustic, down to earth form, but at the same time, their colours are fresh and new. Their timeless look can be combined with many interior design styles to create a harmonious ambience. Halko’s ceramics also offer a very physical experience, inviting one to stroke their surface forever.”

Originally from Eastern Finland, Saija Halko (b. 1989) developed an interest in the creative field and artisanship at a young age. After attending Savonlinna Senior Secondary School of Arts, Halko was introduced to ceramics at a local community college, where she immediately fell in love with the material. By the time she graduated from Aalto University in 2019, she had already made a name for herself. The MAJA one-flower vase, which she designed in 2015, has been featured in several Finnish and international interior design magazines and on social media around the world.

Since her graduation, Halko has focused on the small-scale production of her own ceramic series. With ceramics, she is fascinated by working with her hands, as well as the multifaceted and challenging nature of the material. She also likes the humble, unpretentious aspect of everyday ceramic objects. These ideas are present in her design language and finishing methods. As a designer, she is inspired by atmospheres, nature, seasons, shades of colour, old objects, history, and silence in aesthetics. Senses, particularly the tactile perception of tableware, are important to her. For her master’s thesis, she crafted tableware for the restaurant of the Finnish National Museum in Helsinki using ethnographic collections as background material.

Honourable mention – Elle Valkeapää

Jury’s rationale: “Valkeapää’s delicate and aesthetically rich jewellery combines Sami artisan tradition, user experience and beauty. Birch root adds warmth to the brightness of silver. The use of the wondrous birch root is of particular interest.”

Born into a family of artisans, Elle Valkeapää (b.1979) fuses traditional techniques and natural materials and aesthetics in a contemporary way. A silversmith based in Inari, Lapland, she is highly skilled in the methods of both Sami craftsmanship and industrial design. She makes her silver jewellery from sterling silver and birch root she collects herself. Valkeapää’s work has been exhibited around the world.

Honourable mention – Bo-Åke Ljungars

Jury’s rationale: “Ljungars’s wooden containers stand the test of time, from one generation to another. High-quality woodwork brings light and warmth to the home. The use of the wondrous birch root is of particular interest.”

Bo-Åke Ljungars (b. 1968) from Malax, Ostrobothnia, is a self-taught maker of wooden containers, whose skills are admired in several countries. Ljungars learned the art of making wooden containers in his home village when he became inspired by his neighbour. The master craftsman now has a dedicated following as far as in Asia. He is particularly well renowned in Japan, where he has travelled to explore the local Magewappa container tradition. Ljungars combines elements of Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish form in his wooden containers, but he also makes traditional Finnish containers. He encourages the everyday use of containers, pointing to Japan, where they play an essential role in cooking and storage.