A very early start at Heatherdale Station for what was going to be a very colourful day.
I had to make sure I was in time to catch the V/Line train to Bendigo as I was spending the day with friends at the Bendigo Art Gallery.
Walking down Mitchell Street from Bendigo Station three and a half hours later, this small wall plaque caught my eye.
It reminded me of the sculpture on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets. My instincts were right. Although the building is now a real estate agent, it must have been an AMP office as the sculpture is a smaller version of the emblem on their headquarters in Sydney. The sculpture was created by Tom Bass in 1960-62 and he made the bronze Children’s Tree in 1962- 63. It is so loved by children the lizard’s head is permanently shiny.
The purpose for the trip was to view the Marimekko retrospective exhibition at the Bendigo Gallery which continues until June 11. The story of the company goes back to 1951 Finland, and is a most interesting read. As the curator said during her talk we were fortunately organised enough to attend, it is a story of strong, visionary women at a time when this was exceptional. Founder Armi Ratia and designer Maija Isola created bold fabrics with inventive designs and startling use of colour. Clothing designer Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi freed women from the constraints of tailored clothing with her revolutionary clean cut shapes which focussed on the fabric design.
Screen printing requires skill and particular attributes. Early recruitment was for tall women under 40 who would be physically able to print the fabric.
The character of the founding women is perhaps summed up in the most well known of Marimekko’s designs. The one that is plastered all over the gallery entry. Unniko (poppy) is known as the rebel flower. Maija Isola created it in 1964 in protest to Armi Ratia’s directive that Marimekko would never be a flower print company.
The exhibition is a riot of colour, from ceiling to floor. Such was the influence of Marimekko on designers of the 60s and 70s that it all felt very familiar.
Silkkikuikka (bird: the great crested grebe) 1961 is one of the Joonas (Jonah) series. Maija Isola painted the sketches for these patterns on large rolls of cardboard on the printing tables at night after the factory had closed. Sections of the paintings were then used for final print designs. The black and white design is also from this series. The dress Sanianen (fern) 1966 by Annika Rimala uses her fabric design Pilvi (cloud) from 1961. This is a common practice, to use patterns even decades after they were originally designed. Another practice is the use of Finnish names for all designs.
The design for Max ja Moritz (Max and Moritz) 1971 is painted directly onto cardboard by Maija Isola shows how the pattern will repeat in the resulting fabric.
While the stripe is a much beloved Marimekko motive, Maija Isola did not often use it. This is the original sketch she made for Sulhanen in 1971. It is this direct, hand made look that is the attraction of the company’s designs.
Designs are developed in a huge number of colour ways. These colour samples of Nasti 1958 by Vuokko Nurmesniemi may have been a bit too tempting to quilters. Fortunately they are displayed under glass.
The fabric Galleria used in this dress is by the same designer and created in 1956. The dress is Takila by Annika Rimala and the photo comes from the Swedish magazine Damena’s Värld, 1967. The seams forming the shaping and the pattern at the front also conceal pockets in the mitre seam.
Another intriguing dress was Pikomi by Pentti Rinta in 1972. It is printed cotton jersey, a fabric first used in the 1960s. The fabric pattern is Lorina (sound of running water). After much discussion we decided the pattern mismatch at the front and on the sleeves was quite deliberate. Something we would have been chastised for in sewing class. It makes you wonder if it is a white dress with a red stripe or a red dress with a white one.
The fabrics behind are Karuselli (carousel) 1973 by Japanese born designer Katsuji Wakisaka who joined the company in 1969 when he was 24. The one on the right is Lammet (ponds) 1971, his interpretation of water plants growing in a pond.
Finally, my favourite design from all those on display. Mansikkavouret (strawberry mountains) 1969 an interior fabric by Maija Isola. The dress in printed cotton jersey by Mika Piirainen in 2001 is one of the first examples of the adaptation of an interior fabric pattern for a garment.