One after another I keep learning about amazing women textile designers in postwar America and Europe. Today: Maija Isola, who designed textiles for Marimekko. She created “Unikko” in 1964. It was an immediate hit. It defined, and still defines, the Marimekko look. And, it’s still in production. In fact, online at the Marimekko store you can still buy the Unikko design in all sorts of products — including wallpaper, upholstery-width fabric, shower curtains, towels, placements, sheet sets, teapots, teacups — even socks and umbrellas! Marimekko also continues to sell a number of Isola’s other original designs. Hey, I have no problem buying from designers today, but… heck… so much of today’s modern designs seems completely derivative … so why not buy the originals? Read on for more about Maiji Isola…
Maija Isola (1927–2001) designed her first printed textiles in 1949 for Printex Oy, Marimekko’s predecessor. She worked as head designer of Marimekko’s interior fabrics until 1987. She also had an illustrious career as a … tremendously versatile and bold visual artist. She interpreted the events of her era from her own unique perspective and foresaw future trends. Her body of work includes over 500 prints – a brilliant selection of patterns representing different themes and techniques. She drew inspiration from traditional folk art, modern visual art, nature and her countless trips around the world. In 1970, Maija Isola wrote to her daughter from Paris: “Bon soir children. I’m having a wonderful time these days. I’ve started working. Once again, I feel as if I’ll never find the time to do even a fraction of all the things I want to do. – – I had a huge floral still-life of sorts spread out wet on the floor, waiting to be rolled up … paints in yoghurt pots, and newspaper everywhere, and flowers in vases on the floorboards. I bought those to paint from on Pentecost. Large deep-red roses, small and fragrant, curiously furry pink roses, yellow, orange and white poppies, cowslips in various shades of purple, black tulips and tiny carmine flowers whose name I don’t know.”
What a wonderful woman. I know FOR A FACT that this look was a huge influence on me, when I first started to pay real attention to interior design around 1970. The shag carpet in the first bedroom I designed for myself in our 1971 California split level = Unikko knock off, for sure. Kisses to you in heaven, Maija.
Images and biographical text: Copyright © 2004 Marimekko Corporation, Puusepänkatu 4, 00880 Helsinki, Finland. All rights reserved.