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During the residency program at Hiap, I was interested in exploring Finnish weaving history and its origins, since I knew how much relevant was weaving in the cultural history of Finland.
I was quite surprised as, little by little, I found out that most of the women artists, just considered "textile artists", are mostly forgotten nowadays, and whenever I was asking information about Finnish weaving techniques, people in Helsinki didn't know so much about, and the reaction was always something like: " oh.. that's is handcraft, has nothing do with art".
Since in recent years there has been a general reconsideration of the interesting and lively exchanges about creativity between the innovative work developed by several generations of "textile artists" (from the time of the Deutscher Werkbund and the Bauhaus school) until more recent artists' success, many fundamental questions of craftsmanship versus mass production, or usefulness versus formal beauty in a commonplace objects, have been touched and opened. Subsequently a different understanding and appreciation have been developed towards such innovative artists that have consistently experimented all their life with both traditional and industrialized weaving techniques, redefining what textile art could be.

Also the weaved carpets that I was mostly interested in, the Raanu, because they are fascinating example of an abstract and not figurative art, and reminded me of the nomadic carpets from the natives of North America.
My intuition proved to be right; I found out the origins for the Raanu are nomadic and come from Sami People's, Finland's natives, that have been living nomadically long before the Finnish State was established.

Raanu is an old woolen textile from the 16th and 17th century, used as a blanket, tablecloth or curtain, mostly on the western coast of Finland. It was very important as a blanket because of the cold climate and leaky houses. Lapinraanu has been quite simple textile from origin, colour from the lamb and without patterns. The Saami-people have wrapped themselves in raanus and kept themselves warm.

Specifically I found an interest focus in the figure of Elsa Montell-Saanio, since she worked out and developed the modern Lapinraanu that became also so popular in the 70ies.
Nowadays there is not a major public collection of her work in museums while most of those works are collected by private collectors. No retrospective show of her work has been organized and also just a very little writing on her work, "Arktinen horisontti", with the small exception of a little publication (containing poetic texts).  

As I consider her textile work to be an incredible synthesis of several sources and influences, coming both from the natural world as well from the cultural milieu of that time,
I decided to compose all the selected materials I managed to find in a table composition - whose title is "Into Lapin raanu". To me this a starting point for a future investigation and research trip I'd like to take in Lapland areas in Finland.

by Paola Anziché