A few years ago Nick and I went to Finland, to the wilderness, close to the Arctic Circle. It was full of snow and ice, the freshest air imaginable and the clearest skies. We had hoped to see the Northern Lights, which never appeared for us, but we cross-country skied. We walked in snow shoes. We climbed an ice wall with picks. We went out, pulled by Husky dogs and on a Skiddo. We played Frisbee and hockey in deep snow, sledged, and laughed our socks off. We built an igloo and I caught a fish in the ice. It was like being a kid, and such fun, and I still hold such a sense of achievement.
We also fell for the Moomins. I really loved the naked Hippo-like creatures with a retro feel and I wanted to buy a whole set of mugs at Helsinki airport. (But I didn’t). I had tried the stories as a youngster but didn’t really get them. I re-read a couple as an adult and found them both charming and profound. Not really children’s books at all.
So I was excited to read about an exhibition at the Southbank Centre which will be our Christmas treat, ideally with Ted, in the run up to Christmas. I love Scandinavian design – strong Swedish/Danish approaches, and our new home in the country has very much been influenced by Scandinavian style. We hope it will be a place we can truly experience Hygge – the log burning fire, the underfloor heating and the fact that it is built for comfort within a natural setting is all part of our thinking. On Nick’s birthday later this month we are planning a meal cooked outside (sadly without snow).
But the real reason I wrote this post is that I recently learned more about Finnish author Tove Jansson who both wrote and illustrated the books. Apart from the Moomin books she was a talented artist. I love the beautiful soft colours, the moody interiors and the femininity of the paintings. They remind me of Gwen John (the sister of Augustus), although Tove is on the scene 50 years later.
And of course, as ever with artists, I was interested in her clothes and appearance. She was precocious, drawing and painting and even publishing a book as a child. She was productive and driven. I love the pictures of her in her studio, surrounded by her wonderful art. I love her pleated, pocketed trousers, her little jumper and serious footwear. I love her slicked back hair and reticent look. Her wonderful flared pants and open-necked shirt in the second picture are also beguiling with a relaxed but industrious feel. And finally, at her summer-house in Finland, where people swim naked in the sea, enjoy the sun shine and being outside in fresh air she wears an amazing flower headdress. a chunky silver necklace and quite possibly the same shirt she wore 30 years earlier. What a beautiful woman – so much talent, so much experience, and quite a lot of sadness.
In the lead up to Christmas here is her recollection of Christmas in Finland and Sweden (her mother was Swedish). Uniqlo and Moomin have collaborated for years, so if you fancy a T-shirt or nightgown you can find an inexpensive one here. On the other hand Finnish designer Tuomas Merikoski’s latest collection was inspired by Moomin. He says “All the characters have very different personalities – some nice, some not so nice, some intelligent, and some not…it’s these differences that make a balanced society”.
PS. From this week I will be dropping my Friday posts and blogging just three times a week. One or two posts will cover SWAP and my other sewing/knitting projects, and one or two will cover general topics of style, art, fashion, exhibitions and history, like this one.