In The Footsteps Of Fairy Tales And Mythical Creatures

Where I live & work, in the archipelago of Pellinki (in Southern Finland), several authors and artists have been inspired by the local environment, and one above all,  Tove Jansson (1914-2001) , the creator of the popular fairy tale figures, The Moomins (Moomintrolls). I’ve been inspired by many others as well, but I think the Moomins had the biggest influence, with a philosophy that felt comfortable. Fairy tales never seem to stop fascinate adults, although one once in a while seem to think that it is only kids stuff.  The world of escapism plays a big role for many artists. All artist are inspired by somebody else, we all need somebody to look up to, but might not always confess it… This is a part of my confession, and some thoughts around the production of paraphernalia to go with some popularity of the stories… This is a subjective analysis, but maybe there are some soul mates out there as well.

The shadow of a Centaur in Pellinki

The shadow of a Centaur in Pellinki, true or just a tale?

Snow White And The Three Gnomes (reluctantly cleaning the secret cave)

Snow White And The Three Gnomes (reluctantly cleaning the secret cave)

Most of the fairy tale books I know of are written by adults and even for adults – there must live a little imagination within an adult mind after all…  Trolls, gnomes and all kinds of mythical creatures still live on thanks to creative adults, let’s not forget the Brothers Grimm who tirelessly collected folk tales to something that we all heard of by know all our lives, Little Red riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and Cinderella to mention a few. What I’ve heard it’s common in Iceland that there are some mythical creatures living under rocks and a little everywhere.  I’m convinced it is healthy to think that there are these “little people” around – as long as we can keep it under control.. 😉  It is said that it takes special skills to see them, and they don’t show them selves to just anybody. Maybe that’s why you haven’t spotted any?  The real Moomins are difficult to see, as they are not much bigger than a matchbox…  I could swear I catch some glimpses of them on a daily basis – or maybe it was an albino mouse – or maybe not..? Besides the Moomins another significant fairy tale series for me  was the “Bland Tomtar och troll” series (Among gnomes and trolls) with the fantasticly enchanting illustrations by John Bauer…

Nordiska Väsen a book with a wonderful feel to the cover and beutful illustrations to the descriptions

Nordiska Väsen a book with a wonderful feel to the cover and beutful illustrations to the descriptions

Recently, to continue my journey through the fairy tales and myths,  Johan Egerkrans released (in Swedish) the book “Nordiska Väsen” (Nordic Mythical creatures), inspired and dedicated to John Bauer, with clearly John Bauer inspired & peculiar illustrations. I’m in mythical fairy tale heaven… Fortunately there are many others still involved with fairy tales, my recent discovery was this book

Harri Tarkka Illuatration/kuvitus

The “vegetarian” seal and the concerned fishes….  A fairytale with truths about the polluted Baltic Sea.  Harri Tarkka Illustration/kuvitus

“The Knights Of The Baltic Ocean” (unfortunately only in Finnish or Swedish website, the book has seriously adorable illustrations by Harri Tarkka and would melt the heart of anyone…. I ended up buying the book due to the adorable illustrations.  The mission of the book is awareness of the pollution of the Baltic Sea and how it affected by the human habits above and under neath the surface. The Moomin stories are also about living in harmony with nature and appreciating what you have. I never met the author Tove in person, she passed away a few years before I arrived in Pellinki, but I’m well acquainted with her books about the Moomins, and I’ve heard a lot of stories about her told by the locals.

One Of The Locals

One Of The Locals

She seems as a person with a big heart, great imagination and someone I would have liked to know. When I was a child in the 1970-80’s the comic books by Tove and her brother Lars were still stored at the children’s section at the libraries. Nowadays you’ll find them adult section due to making moonshine, accidentally getting a little tipsy and experimenting with some smoking.. I still find this quite amusing, as I never found them morally suspicious as a child. Children encounter far more worse things in life than these little creatures.  I used read them over and over again as they were thought as extremely witty and funny. With a lot of lessons and truths about life. Stinky was one of my favorite characters as he was extremely rebellious and did what ever he wanted to (mostly illegal, or considered generally inappropriate).



Apart from creating art in many ways Tove also participated in some in local activities as well, one was the homestead farm museum Hörbergsgården .  She  participated with some other volunteers in hand printing the wall paper in the “Priest’s chamber” when the cottage was put together for the use as museum in the 1970’s , and later used to read fairy tales there for children when they had their annual  Childrens Day-party. “Fantastic” according to some who remember it and “Truly scary with the scary old lady in that dark room” according to somebody closer to me… It’s fascinating how we experience things in different ways…  The scariest old lady I’ve never known was my grandmother, who smoked approximately a carton of cigarettes per day – at least it seemed that way to me, her apartment had heavier “smog”  than any major city today…She never read any fairy tales, but spoke warmly about the Swedish king and queen and followed their life closely.  The scariness of my grandmother was outweighed by the fact that she had retired from a company that sold sweets (among other things), so her home was crammed with chocolate and candy. I was easily bribed by sugar in those days.

Medieval Market Princess

I wouldn’t get caught dead in a princess outfit.Except once…

The books about the Moomins always had a magical atmosphere in them to me. I myself found a soul mate in Little My, as she easily bit people if they annoyed her. I did bite a  lot too for some years (as a child, but I do still feel the urge to bite once in a while… 😉 ), and if there was a costume party, I always dressed up as a vampire or a meat eating flower. To justify my biting habit. I wouldn’thave  been caught dead in a princess outfit. It wasn’t until 1998 in my late 20’s that I wore a pricess outfit for the first (and maybe last) time, as I worked at the Medieval Market in Turku. My co-workers made me do it! 😀

The animated versions of the Moomins were never really my thing, nor the old school “flat paper and fur animation” neither the Japanese version that turned popular in the early 1990’s. I’m a big fan of skillfully executed animations and somehow these didn’t quite reach my standards… Suddenly the stores were invaded by stuffed Moomins in all these strange pastel colors – similar to “My Little Pony”.   All of the sudden the Moomins that had felt somewhat private and down to earth mythical creatures turned in to mass produced cupcakes…  I took a few steps away from the Moominworld…

One of the many windows Tove has looked through...

Inspirational view for many artist, now and in the past

A few years later I began my studies for a diploma in crafts and design in Turku. It so happened, that my co-students were also a little annoyed by the commercialized trolls. We had in our scheme a subject called “Plastic Composition”, not so much about plastics but more of developing the perception of three-dimensional things. Appropriately enough, we had an assignment to create a 3-D set piece of some kind, and all of the sudden there was an idea of “Depression In The Moominvalley”. So we started analyzing the characters, who was most suicidal, eligible for being addicted to drugs and etc… The whole set took place at a grave yard for some spookier effects, and turned out quite -bizarre. We ourselves were very content with the final results – and it seemed to stir up some strong feelings among some students that saw it…  A reaction we hadn’t counted on, but we were rather amused by it, as well as our teacher who was thrilled. Unfortunately I have no photos of this piece and I’m not sure if it’s around anymore, but the memory lives on.  Maybe it would stir up some feelings again – most likely. The economic depression passed and soon enough we hit another one, which we still live today.

A pair of shoes I bumped into on my journey through the fairy-tale landscape. These didn't belong to Tove (or me), but has inspired somebody else who might have been inspired by her as well...

A pair of  fabulous blue sequin shoes I bumped into on my journey through the fairy-tale landscape. These didn’t belong to Tove (or me), but  obviously inspired somebody else who has been inspired by her as well…

Tove’s creations live on, and nowadays consists of a huge corporation that controls it all and sells licenses to apparently almost anybody who can pay enough.  A little sad side, there are tons legally manufactured of paraphernalias with “Made In China” tags, and sadly it brings me to the same feeling as if I would go to the Bahamas and shop for a souvenir with the same tag (unfortunately this is the truth with many souvenirs). Obviously there is a market for people who don’t care where the stuff they buy is made too. I think some Moomin paraphernalia are made even made in Sweden, and as a counter-weigh there are some knitting or crocheting ladies who here and there at different markets sell hand made Moomin characters or angry bird items with no knowledge (I think? Or maybe they don’t care) of what is copyrighted material. What would you choose, a legally massproduced (most likely under suspicous circumstances) item or the hand crocheted Moomin finger puppet sold by the retired lady outside the supermarket?  I used to think of the Moomin-worlds as something really special, but nowadays it’s getting ever so much closer to the Disney corporation… (the good old Disney Cartoons are true pieces of art, the more recent feel quite plastic and mass-produced) I don’t find it justified to copy copyrighted material, but when you have to choose between two controversial alternatives one might lean towards the more humane alternative. That is if there’s any common sense and a pinch of a little heart left…  And all of the sudden my thought wander off to a favorite movie of mine ” It’s A Wonderful Life”  with James Stewart…  But back to reality, the question is:   Why not give (at least some) priority to smaller entrepreneurs and artisans that actually could give a soul and extra value to the items and the whole concept?Assisi I’m sure the creator of this “empire” would find it as a good idea, if she had lived that is.   And at the same time give them a chance to actually make a decent living from it…  Oh yes, anybody can apply for the licence, but the price is set so high that it favors only those with the biggest bank account, and who most likely would be pretty well off without them anyway. There is a demand and niche to offer small entrepreneurs & artisans a license for a reasonable fee – I do hope somebody holding the decisive steering wheel sees this some day. I constantly bump in to the question of why there isn’t any genuine Moomin products available by artisans, meaning small scaled unique production of excellent quality. I myself would definitely buy a hand made wooden unique Moomin sculpture box, or clogs with the good ol’ Moomins printed on them. When the production of the Moomin porcelain mugs moved abroad quite recently I decided to remove them from my shopping list.  The product lost it’s charm and many people here lost there jobs (I’m sure the “made in Finland” still would have kept the profit coming , and despite of outsourcing the price of the mugs went up anyway).  The only Moomin-related thing I’ve bought during the last years are one enamel mug and after making sure it was made in Finland (still made in Finland as far as I know) and- postcards. The downside with the enamel mug is that it’s partly metal, so not a very convenient thing to put in your microwave… Nevertheless I have the original Moomin Valley in my mind and heart, and they can’t take that away from me by any mass produced item.  But I do so much dream of truly genuine Moomin products proudly made in Finland, as many other items/brands formerly made in Finland as well. There are a few, but the main motto seems to be “designed in Finland” whilst the products themselves are made far away. I’ve lost confidence in many Finnish brands due to this, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Until then (when there will be increased production in Finland of anything), I shall treasure my piggy bank & porcelain Moomin statuettes, made in Finland by Arabia somewhere between 1989 and 1991. As for the dented mini porcelain figurine of Snorkmaiden that a girl once gave me when I was home-sick at the age of maybe 8.  Little did I know that I would treasure them this much 25-36 years later…

If you’ve never heard about Tove Jansson or the Moomins and wonder what on earth I’m  rambling about here, you can always take a peak at the site. This year Toves 100th birthday is celebrated (if she still had lived), and in the Porvoo area are this has lead to several events (arranged in approval & collaboration with those owning the copyrights to the Moomins & Tove).  If you’re getting curious and feel like attending one or more events, here you’ll find more info about what’s going on

Moomin Piggy Bank from 1990's

Moomin Piggy Bank from 1990’s. NOT to be confused with a hippopotamus!


A Midsummer Nights Dream…. what life in the archipelago is all about.. . Almost.
Of course it’s a lot of hard work, and since the peak season is in July, there’s not much time for rest for the local entrepreneurs that work day and night in order to get by during the slow season in January-may…
Never the less, when Finnish schools start, the cottage people withdraw back to the cities and visit us occasionally on weekends. Up ahead this saturday is the Night Of Ancient Bonfires, a kind of celebration to end the summer season.  Some close their cottages for the year and return next spring, others continue to visit once in a while.
This past summer was weather-wise  just awesome, warm soft days, occasional rain showers (no need to water the garden), and August has been just beautiful.  August and September are my favorite months-during weekdays is so quiet at sea, plenty of bird & mammal-life to take pictures of and the air is velvety soft -but not too hot.

Dark evenings call for sitting outside with cozy lanterns and watching the moon and the stars…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking forward to the White Nights…

The days have gotten longer and it’s quite nice to have more time for working outside…pine tar treated wooden boat

May is the best time of the year for treating wooden objects with pine tar, and the wonderful smoky scent is my favorite perfume!

I love all the seasons of the year, but those white nights are actually quite magical. I do enjoy going out cayaking, and if the moon happens to rise it’s even more magical…

Despite that the summer is the busiest time of the season (besides Christmas) the long days with plenty of daylight gives one energy to endure until fall when it all calms down…

White night cayaking


white nights

sommarbilderMFinnish summerMidsummer's eve

Getting organized…

As the days grow longer one realizes spring is on it”s way! If you ask somebody living in Northern Finland, they say Spring is here as soon the days grow longer. They do enjoy a little more snow & cold weather than we in the south do.. 😉
Once Christmas season is over I catch my breath, and the craft-teaching semester continues. And I realize it’s time to dig into everything that has been postponed for some while… Getting organized is not a problem in it self, I used to work as an interior designer and a major part of that job was of course organizing things, solving storage problems etc. It’s just the lack of time as I travel with work quite frequently, and hectic schedules with having to pack an unpack all the time…

Spring cleaning is here in other words, and I go through all my stash & leftovers, of course throwing out everything that’snot needed. Since I have no time for selling stuff at flea-markets (besides, since I travel with my products here and there to events-it would feel just like working..) I donated all unneccesary things to a good will flea market, where I shop once in a while too…

Color coded books

Color coded books

I have quite a few of books about art and crafting. I use them when teaching, so they travel around and don’t always end up where they’re supposed to at once, due to tight schedules with unpacking & packing.  I got fed up with them not staying organized according to subject, and it looked messy even if they did, so I decided to color-code my books. Easy! Next time I return a book to the shelf I just stick it where the right color is!  And it looks nicer! 😀

Haute Couture in the 1990's

Pink Lady: Haute Couture in the 1990’s

As I was going through stuff  I also bumped in to several pages of inspirational cut-outs from different fashion magazines, that I carefully organized in folders sometimes 15 years ago… Yes, I’m maybe not so neat on the surface, but my folders and closets are impeccable!  Messy storage drives me nuts… Some of the cut-outs are still useful – but I did get a laugh too and the biggest laugh got this Pink Lady, giant shoulders and with earrings that look like something you tie up your curtains with. 😀  It was “Haute Couture” in those days…  Some om my favorite pictures on the wall are actually cut outs from fashion magazines in the 90’s, but they’re more ethnic/vintage-styled  & timeless, some with a twist of humor if you look real close…

Such a stylish lady, but check out the fabric pattern on the hat! :D

Such a stylish lady, but check out the fabric pattern on the hat! 😀

Snowy (from Tintin) & & the little mole

Les Girls resting with Snowy (from Tintin) &  2 x the little mole, accompanied by Mickey & Flat Eric on the wall. Wall clock made from Disney’s “The Black Hole” soundtrack. It sounded better on the wall.

I’m some sort of a comic freak since I’ve always loved to read some specific comics & cartoons, and occasionally  I’ve been involved in drawing some too. Tintin is one of my favorites, and his dog Snowy aquired a honorary seat on my top shelf as well the two Little moles from the Checkoslovakian cartoon, and where “Les Girls” take a break from the hectic market seasons. I take no responsibility for the wall paper – it came with the house  and imagine how freaky – they matched the vintage lamp that I have since the 1970’s  (it’s a lot older though…)…  One day when I have nothing better to do I will paint the walls to something neutral. I’ve never been much of a wall paper fan…

Vintage lampshade accidentally matches wall paper in new house....

Vintage lampshade accidentally matches wall paper ….

Ystad- In Kurt Wallander’s footsteps

Kurt Wallander’s beach house in Svarte, Sweden

In May a group of people in our area gathered and left for an educational journey to Ystad. The Main theme for the trip was ofcourse the famous character from Henning Mankell’s books, Kurt Wallander, but at the same time we were about to learn how an area can profit and thrive from something like a book character as well. Of course Ystad has had tourists who’ve been a little confused and dropped by the local police station in order to meet him, forgetting that he is only a fictional figure. How well haven’t the books & movies been made then if he seems so real?

The area around Ystad was to die for, despite a rather cold and extremely windy weather.  But once we saw all the perfect gardens, the beach, “Ale stenar”

Ale Stenar, Kåseberga, Sweden. There’s something magical about this (extremely windy) place…

(ancient rocks) , the beautiful windmills, one forgot quickly how cold it was.

windmill park between Denmark & Sweden (Copenhagen-Malmö, from the Öresundsbridge)

The programme during the 4 day trip was intense – I think it was a two week trip crammed in to these few days-we had no time to waste-and if there was any time of our own, it was one morning, approx 2 hrs before our bus took off on our daily educational journey. I ended up renting a bicycle from the hotel (where parts of one of the Wallander movies had been made as well). I pedaled around like crazy, checked out shops I was interrested in, took photos and collected some treasures from the local beach. Oh, and I managed to squeese in a visit to the local flea market as well. We made many visits to local entreprenours, gardens, farms, crafters and other worth-while to visit places…. We also visited Cineteket/Ystad studios and got to see some of the sets for Kurt Wallander and some other movies made there.

Angry Bird a.k.a. felted goose trophy at one flea market. Must’ve been a fierce one to catch!

Once we got home I was happy but on the verge of a burn out… ;o)

As I look through the photos I seriously feel a longing of going there again, such a contrast to our archipelago, but still the closeness to the sea and old ports leading to other mystical places… Definitely a worth while place to visit! Down below a slideshow, the pictures will speak for themselves…
I found so many things to take photos of that I just might post them later to my flickr account… And HERE they are..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Getting through tragedies whilst crafting…

At some point in our lives there’s always some tragedies or other hardships that pop up, whether we like it or not. It takes a lot to cope with situations like that, and some times it can take quite some time too. A crafting person like me, is no more spared than anybody else, even though there might be an appearance of that all is well and life & bussiness is all sunshine from day to day. As a neighbour of mine said several times: ” There’s no use in being envious of somebody else’s life – we all get a good share of hardships and devastating experiences.”  And that is so true. And by feeding envy – we never get to know those valuable people out there. Instead there might be more harm caused instead through gossiping and other actions.

Tar treated hearts

Some months ago I faced a tragedy involving a childhood friend of mine. I was devastated and fortunately it wasn’t the busiest time of my season, so there was some time for being a little on the down side… Still I was relieved to bump in to an article about that being sad isn’t an illness, it’s a normal way of reaction and a part of the process towards healing & being able to continue with life. Good, I thought, because that’s how I’ve always felt, there are times when one must be allowed to be really sad for some time, even several weeks is normal.
This is nothing I long for ofcourse, but some years ago when I faced an other obstacle in my life, I focused on whittling hearts out of pine tree bark. I whittled quite a few, and once my hands were sore from whitling I moved to making hearts from twigs. Now when I look back on photos of these items, I get a positive feeling of getting over something, but in the same time I was capable of focusing on something positive. At first the whittling didn’t feel so good, but it keept me focused on the knife and not cutting myself. The more I whittled, the more I managed to process the sorrow, and move over to more positive feelings as watching what I had accomplished.

My recent crafting therapy was focusing on flowers. Due to a disc hernia that made my life a little more complicated at that point, I had to work on something that could be made lying down, or half -sitting. Sitting was out of the question. So I crocheted roses. In all the colours I could find suitable fluffy yarns in my yarn stash. I ended up buying more inspirational fluffy yarns, and crocheting more flowers.

I don’t own anymore many of the oroiginal sorrow-crafted items, I actually managed to sell most of them, but I enjoy watching photos of them. And watching the photos make me feel better about how I was able to process all the feelings out of me and at the same time produce something that could bring some sort of income later on-although I felt quite paralyzed while they were made.

Cayaking season is up a head...

I still whittle hearts, and today I also treat them with tar-& linseed oil mixture, for that sea-bitten scent & beautiful shade. Thanks to an ex co-worker from a previous job, I got a good recipe on this tar-mixture. I have also moved to painting the hearts with egg-oil tempera, but that procedure takes a little longer than the tar treatment. But at the same time it builds up my patience… And the few that are already done – the egg oil tempera colours are breathtaking…

With everything bad something good always seems to come along as well, but that’s something one has to realize later – not be told while your world is falling a part…

I’m so looking forward to the spring season and sitting outside in my Outdoor Office, but there’s still ice on the sea in front of me and it chills our frontyard quite effectively…  I can’t wait to tar treat some whittled hearts and hang them in the sun to dry!  And finishing the egg oil tempera painting project of my Yellow Basket… 🙂  And what’s yet best to come, the cayaking season (I’m no hardcore cayaker yet, with neopren equipment..) is up ahead!  There’s nothing more peaceful than silently gliding across the sea, seeing birdlife and others that have no idea that I’m out there due to this silent vessel…

Christmas and the stormy weathers

Bruno on one of his sick-leaves

Christmas arrrived faster than I could’ve imagined, time flew and I was kept busy by one of my Office assistants being ill most of the fall. Nothing fatal, but enough to keep me busy, mess upp my schedules and make me worry a lot…
And all of the sudden it was time for the local Christmas market! And there, there was Santa and his Christmassy seagull! There were plenty of visitors despite the rainy & windy weather, and everybody seemed happy despite the windy wetness…

Look, here's Santa & his Seagull!

Christmas dinner was dominated by a divine piece of smoked leg of mutton – I demand some sort of a rerun for Easter!

On Boxing day we were hit by a ruthless storm with 30m/s in the huffs & puffs, that did a lot of damage to trees and left plenty of homes without electricity. Some still are powerless…  We were fortunate enough to be without electricity for only 12hrs, and fortunately we had a fireplace and plenty of candles to keep us warm and cosy. Not to forget my irreplaceable Dynamo Radio, which I tend to keep fully charged for occasions like this… I bought it some years ago from the internet, it was quite valuable, around 100€, but I think it’s worth every penny. Brilliant to keep with you while working outdoors – and even better during power cuts…! Due to that we’re used to “hop around”  in the darkness walking the dogs, all the flashlights were in shape. The best information I received however from the neighbours daughter that drove by, she told that the area around the ferry was like hit by a hurricane, that explained that we’ll be without electricity for a bit longer… During the storm-even if our house was on the windbreak side- it was a little scary to go outside.  At one point when visiting outside I heard some trees cracking further up on our property – it felt better to go back inside… We ended up having approx. a dozen of trees blown down by the storm, fortunately none damaged people,dogs or buildings!

Near the ferry

The stormy weather isn’t over yet – yesterday Mr Wind decided to blow on our side of the hill – this time “only” something like 20m/s, but the house was shaking, the chimney was howling, it was snowing horisontally and there was some sort of wind chill factor even indoors!!! 😀 I ended up stuffing newspaper in the cracks in the bedroom wall logs, by the window… Fortunately it changed direction at som point of the evening. This time the electricity hung around all the way, and no trees gave up…

Experiencing frequent storms (one more on the way tonight again) makes you think & wonder about how dependant we have become of that frizzy stuff coming along the lines… And they still try to make us buy more electrically powered stuff, as well letting us understand that wood heated homes for instance aren’t enviromentally friendly. So may be – but if it’s a quiestion of surviving in the winter – there’s nothing beating a fireplace and a wood heated stove (which I miss by the way – heating the grill isn’t an option in 20m/s winds..). Fortunately some foods can be wrapped in aluminum foil & cooked in the fireplace. I’m still for windpower-an vertical wind turbine on the roof would’ve been plenty useful this fall and Christmas in so many homes! The problem is that nobody can own the wind – why it’s made as an unattractive option.. Silly! Once I win the lottery I’ll invest in one of those, or maybe I’ll just build one myself….! 😉  Strangely enough – it’s when it’s windy we get in trouble with the electricity – and that’s when wind power would be so efficient…!

Wishing You a great year for 2012! Gotta go, time to get prepared for the next storm up ahead tonight!

Dressed for surviving at the windy & rainy christmas market