Well known print patterns animated in a new documentary about Maija Isola

Maija Isola’s fabric designs have conquered the whole world from New York to Tokyo. Most beloved classics like Unikko, Kivet, Kaivo and Melooni were essential in creating Marimekko’s lifestyle universe and now presented in a documentary Maija Isola Master of Colour and Form.

The extraordinary artist was born in 1927 in the village of Arolampi in Riihimäki, Finland. And it was also in Riihimäki, that she left this world in 2001. However, the avid traveller lived in various cities and countries throughout her life.

The documentary film moves from place to place in the footsteps of Maija. The change of location forms the principal structure of the film. It presents the values at the centre of the vagabond’s life, and the legacy the globetrotter left us through travel diaries, letters, voice recordings and postcards.


Art expressed by artist animators

The film was released in late 2021, and it is a co-production with Germany with producers Merja Ritola and Elina Kewitz. Director Leena Kilpeläinen has also made the script.

“The post-war years in the 1950s and the great population shift from rural areas to the cities in the 60s also played a part in her success; the move to the city transformed the traditional Finnish living environment from one closely connected to nature to a more urban one. The nature-themed fabrics could soften this change,” says the director Leena Kilpeläinen.

“On the other hand, the vivid colours and forms of Maija’s fabrics stood in stark contrast to the post-war deprivation and worked to revive the Finnish psyche,” she continues.

It was clear to the director from the early development phase that the film will include animation. Kilpeläinen participated the speed-date event, which Finnanimation organised between documentary makers and animators in May 2018.

Both animators, Reetta Neittaanmäki and Annika Dahlsten, are experienced in short format exiperimental animation. They have made animation installations for the gallery space, and their work has been in international exhibitions too.  


Revolutionary design for homes and public places

As one of Marimekko’s first designers Maija Isola spent 38 years working for the company. Her productive period for Marimekko was between 1949 – 1987. But she began her career as a painter already in 1946 and continued painting and drawing until her death.

“Both her paintings and her fabrics stemmed from nature in all its forms. She felt like she was part of nature and for her, nature was the divine creator of all that exists.”

During the active period Isola designed over 500 prints, which revolutionized Finnish homes in the 1950s and 60s. They also took over many public spaces. And their success was not confined to Finland but they conquered the world.

Through a combination of archive materials and brand-new documentary footage Maija’s mental states are described. Cut out animations illustrate the birth of different fabric designs as tied into everyday life and closely connected to Maija’s paintings.


Armi Ratia also speaks about their collaboration in a film

97-minute film premiered on the 18th of September 2021. It was also screened in Tallinn late fall.  The distributor is StoryHill for Finland, Sweden and the Baltics.

Finnish YLE, Swedish SVT and NDR-ARTE are also among the broadcasting partners for the documentary. Financing partners include The Finnish Film Foundation, AVEK, Helland Holding AS,  Taike and New Docs initiative.

The film has lots of footage from Maija Isola’s travels around Europe. Her daughter, also a designer for Marimekko Kristina Isola is interviewed in a film. The founder of Marimekko Armi Ratia is voice acted by Margit Westerlund and Maija, herself, by Päivi Järvinen.

Other cast includes the sound maker Pietari Koskinen and editor Riitta Poikselkä. New music for the film is composed by Sanna Salmenkallio.

More info: http://www.greenlitproductions.net/


Animations for the documentary are made by Reetta Neittaanmäki and Annika Dahlsten. 

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