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Archipelago: Kustaa Saksi for the European Council

TLmag talks to Kustaa Saksi about craftsmanship and the inspiration behind ‘Archipelago’, a 26-metre long tapestry commissioned by the Finnish Government for the European Council in Brussels.

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All Images By: Yen-An Chen

Specialising in graphic storytelling through patterns, textile art and installations, Amsterdam-based Finnish textile artist and designer Kustaa Saksitells stories through his innovative use of the Jacquard weave. Often creating geometric yet organic patterns in his designs, Kustaa combines both analogue and digital techniques and materials – and his works often stem from highly personal experience or memory, such as his lifelong suffering of migraines or his childhood in Finland. His newest work, Archipelago, which is a commission of the Finnish government – is no different. Recently unveiled at the European Council in Brussels, TLmag talks to Kustaa about the inspiration and laborious work behind his newest commission and how his process of combining both new and older techniques has influenced his view on traditional craftsmanship.

TLmag: In your work, you often combine traditional weaving techniques and natural fibres with man-made fibres and complex digital to analogue textures. How do you think this combination of digital and analogue techniques has influenced your process and view on traditional craftsmanship?

KS: I think it’s fascinating to combine these two disciplines and it often leads to surprising results in terms of mixing materials, researching bindings or perfecting the details. During the process, I’ve learnt a lot from traditional techniques and it has had a big impact on my work. Likewise, I’ve managed to enhance the structures through digital processes.

TLmag: Your newest work, Archipelago, is 26 metres long and will be installed at the European Council. Could you tell us a bit more about the inspiration and the thinking behind the tapestry?

KS: “Archipelago” was commissioned by the Finnish government in honour of Finnish Presidency of the Council of The European Union. The tapestry comprises 18 separate woven sections that are joined together to form an imposing work that measures 26 metres. It’s an abstraction of the Finnish seaside and its flora and fauna. The shapes draw their inspiration from Finnish nature and seaside landscape; from microscopic details on leaves to rhythmic, repeating textures of water, reflections and ornamentation of flowers. The artwork is woven using Trevira CS yarns with recycled PET polyester, and I’ve also experimented with expanding filling yarn to achieve a 3-dimensional, relief-like structure to the artwork.

TLmag: It took you more than six months of work to design, develop and weave this artwork. Could you tell us a bit more about the process that you’ve gone through during this time? Were there any surprises or challenges along the way?

KS: The work was executed at TextielMuseum in Tilburg, The Netherlands in collaboration with their textile developers and yarn specialists. As always, it’s been a pleasure to work with textile developer Stef Miero, yarn specialist Martijn van Strien, producer Babette Portzgen and the talented weavers on this big project. We always managed to find a solution for every challenge during this time-consuming process because of the expertise and skill of the team.

TLmag: What do you hope people will take away from experiencing and seeing your tapestry at the European Council?

KS: I hope people will see their own “mindscapes” through the artwork that reminds me of my own – a very special place by the sea where I used to spend my childhood summers.


Kustaa Saksi’s First Symptoms woven tapestries are also part of the exhibition Season XII-The Finnish Season at Spazio Nobile, from 20 September until 22 December 2019

Kustaa Saksi in front of Archipelago commissioned by the Finnish Government Photo: Josefina Eikenaar /TextielMuseum Tilburg

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