The inspiration for most of my work comes from the wonders of nature - the sun, the moon, the sky, rocks, dirt, leaves, trees, water, sand, birds, and even bugs - all have special roles to play in this world and I am constantly fascinated by this concept. Growing up in a national forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, along the largest of The Great Lakes, has given me boundless respect towards nature and the environment - something I am very proud to have.
A popular Lake Superior pastime is to watch the sunset. Lake Superior sunsets are some of the most beautiful in the world, and when watching this breathtaking event, I feel it’s important to sit silently for a moment and simply observe: how the sun falls below the horizon - to take in the blues of the lake and the sky, and see how the colors change before your very eyes to blushes and corals and hints of aubergine. This magnificent show of color ends with a final shift to greys, but the performance isn’t over just yet, as it’s also important to take note of the moon – it’s been having its own stately moment off to the side (or if a full moon, behind you), quietly rising up into the darkness of the night, to light your way back home.
I consider my pillows in the KUU Collection to be functional art pieces, as they are made in very small batches, yet are unique to themselves – no two are exactly alike. They are useful in the home, but they also serve a decorative purpose, and are versatile pieces that can be placed in many types of spaces. Using hemp fabric and natural dyes, along with an ancient resist-dyeing technique, these pillows are personal, artistic expressions achieved through a combination of modern art and traditional methods.
I get much satisfaction from using plants and other natural materials from the earth to dye textiles. Some dyestuffs I use begin in the form of bark or pieces of root. I then guide the transition from this form to an extracted form with the addition of milling the dyestuffs and simmering them in water repeatedly until the desired concentration is achieved. This extract is what bonds to the fiber in the end. Natural dyes are sometimes challenging to work with – there are several variables involved. Therefore, I get much fulfillment when I get a result I am pleased with. I find their muted tones calming and soft, and how they bond with the hemp fabric in this way is engaging to me.
Itajime is an ancient Japanese manual resist-dyeing technique that involves strategically folding the cloth, using shapes and a binding tool to hold it in place, and immersing it in a dyebath. The result is a repeat of soft memories of the shape that was used. In this collection I used circular shapes to attain these results.
-Heidi Wiitanen for KAMPPINEN
Photo by Hannah Messinger