Shortly before artist Johnna Puusa returned home to the Cowichan Valley, she began making himmelis as a hobby. “I have been interested in Scandinavian design and mid century modern works since living with my Swedish step granny, Ingrid in Toronto in ’99. She was a successful and talented textile designer and greatly influenced my sense of style in home decor. I married my husband in 2003 and shortly after we bought our first home. We spent hours over the years searching through Toronto’s East End shops buying mid century modern furnishings. After visiting Finland in 2006 my love for Scandinavian style was cemented,” shares the artist.
I first noticed a beautiful brass himmeli in a furniture catalogue featuring Etsy artists. The himmeli was so intriguing and eye-catching I had to find out more. It didn’t take long to discover that the craft of making himmeli has Finnish roots which I found fascinating. My father-in-law, Keijo, is from Finland and my husband and children have dual citizenship. I learned that my father-in-law and most of the extended family still living in Finland had made himmelis themselves as a Christmas-time tradition when they were children. I knew I had to teach myself to make himmelis. Himmelis were traditionally made with straw from a Finnish family’s crop of rye and hung over the table during the winter harvest festival to ensure a good crop the following year. The more elaborate the himmeli, the more abundant next year’s crop. The most beautiful himmeli were stored hanging from the rafters of Finnish attics from one year to the next.The folklore of inviting abundance by hanging a himmeli in your home really drew me in. I think this is such a wonderful sentiment to create and to give.”
With a keen eye for design and functionality Johnna began incorporating live plants into her Himemelis. The air plants made their first appearance when I decided to vend for the first time at an Atomique Productions craft fair in Victoria. I had been keeping an eye on what other himmeli artists were up to and noticed the incorporation of air plants by a couple of designers in the U.S. I liked this idea being a “green thumb” myself, so I decided to try this out by purchasing a few air plants from Dinter’s and using them in my sales display. The response to both the himmelis and air plants was overwhelming. After this first sale I began researching air plants and suppliers. Although I love the himmelis as a stand alone design piece I think the air plants lend a sense of good fresh fun to the smaller and simplest himmelis I make.
View more of her work locally at Shawnigan Coffee House, Leaf and Petal in Duncan and Thrive Lifestyle on Salt Spring Island.
Himmeli; brass, nylon cord, labradorite bead and gold plated drop string finishings.
By Johnna Puusa