Studio Visit: Eeva Jokinen, Helsinki, Finland

Just the Facts

Clay
porcelain

Primary forming method
slip casting and throwing

Primary firing temperature
cone 6 in an electric kiln

Favorite surface treatment
rice grain porcelain method (pierced holes filled with glaze)

Favorite tools
metal kidney rib

Studio Playlist
Podcasts when working on something mindless and mostly Radio Helsinki if the task at hand needs my complete attention. Many Finnish podcasts, of the English ones, I listen to Invisibilia, Tea & Jeopardy, The infinite Monkey Cage, and Mystery Show, just to mention a few.

Wishlist
Gas kiln; I’d love to use some glazes which require reduction.

Studio

My studio is at the ground floor of the house my husband and I have been building for our family over the past four years. We moved in a year ago, when the house was about 80% finished. Most of the outside details still need to be completed but the living space is just about done. It is still missing some features; since we both work, we have limited time to focus on the house. The house has studio space for both of our businesses (a small wood workshop, my ceramics studio) and our living quarters upstairs. We also designed a small studio apartment to rent out to cover some of the costs.

My studio is about 355 square feet (33 square meters) with a big wall of windows, which let in a lot of natural light. In the summer I can open the big doors to the deck, which is still waiting to be built. Our house is located in the area where Helsinki was originally founded in 1550, although the center of the city has since drifted in another direction and our neighborhood is nowadays not really what you normally see or expect when going to an old town section of a city. We are very close to the seaside, with lots of parks and nature around us. On the day we took photographs for this studio visit, the temperature was about 26°F (-3°C), and the January sun gave us a little hope of the upcoming spring.

Since I had the opportunity to plan the studio from scratch, it is nice and efficient to work in. I could have planned more shelves and storage, as I often notice that stuff seems to gather around me. My favorite aspect is the big windows, which look out to the street; I can wave hello to neighbors while I work. I can also observe the squirrel who lives in the woods across the street, and see random wildlife (including a lost moose that galloped past our house).

I think all the past studios I have worked in have influenced how I work and how I want to work. After graduating from university, I worked for 10 years in a shared studio, and I still carry some of the routines I adopted from that time. When I’m deep into a project, the studio might seem to an outsider to be an untidy mess, but I always know where everything is and in the heat of the making I do not necessarily have time to clean. However, every day, no matter what, I always wash the floor to prevent dust getting elsewhere in the house. That is the shared studio heritage in me.

While the house is still being finished and is in a bit of a stage of flux, I need to wait to purchase or build some of the equipment I would like to have in the studio. I dream of a plaster wheel and a bigger slip mixer.

The house is heated with air-to-water heat pumps and the exhaust air heat pump captures most of the excess heat to reuse as well. I only fire full kilns, if possible. We have long, dark, and cold winters, so the pumps save lots of energy.

Paying Dues (and Bills)

I have an MA in ceramic and glass design from University of Art and Design Helsinki (today it is part of Aalto University).

I work as a part-time lecturer at Aalto University and as a senior lecturer in an institute that trains students who wish to apply to art and design universities. Teaching takes about 50% of my time and I try to spend the rest of my time at the studio. I usually work in phases; for example, in January I make most of the stock for the spring sales, in May–June I work on most of the summer stock and in August–September, the Christmas stock. During the rest of the time, there are also studio days, but they are more scattered throughout the calendar month and thus less productive. I’m quite happy with the schedule; time in the studio fills my needs in artistic creativity and time with students fulfills my social and pedagogical ambitions. I think I have the best of both worlds. Also, teaching brings a regular salary, which takes the pressure off of making a living solely by selling ceramics. Every time I go to the studio, it is a joy.

Marketing

I’m a member at two collective craft shops in Helsinki, where I sell most of my work. Both are located centrally in spots where there are many local people and tourists. The shops take 15–20% commission and I get to decide which products to stock. I have some distributors and my own web shop, which I should update more regularly. I do not like to take on commissioned work since it almost always ends up to be more work than the money that comes in.

I’m a bit uneasy marketing my work, partly because teaching provides me with a basic income, but also because the time away from the studio limits my ability to make lots of new products, so there is no need to market more. I’m in a happy place where I seem not to be able to build a back stock. I try to make extra teacups for unexpected orders, and by the time they are finished, someone wants to buy them right away. I go to an annual autumn design market and also an annual Christmas market, where most new customers find my products. Also, many interior design magazines borrow artwork from our stores to use as part of their articles, which means we get free press exposure. I have a Facebook page where I try to remember to post news and some work-in-progress photos to keep my followers updated on developments in my studio. Some day if things change and more marketing is needed, I think the first place to focus on would be social media. At that time it might be necessary to hire someone to do that for me.

Research and Inspiration

I have recently acquired John Britt’s glaze books and find them extremely interesting. His insights in glaze adjustments are both scientific enough and down-to-earth enough to inspire and push me forward.

I love to garden from spring to autumn and take care of my house plants. I’m also a bit of a geek, and like to learn all kinds of new techniques in all kinds of areas. Lately I’ve been interested in investigating and building arduino micro-controllers and baking sourdough. Knowing stuff and learning more about topics that pique my interest keeps me going.

In my free time, I like to relax and spend time with my family, carpool to my son’s soccer practices, read good novels, and enjoy life.

Most Important Lesson

I work for the process of making, not the end result. Making is my fuel, feeling the material and knowing the material is paramount. I also acknowledge that the most important insights in my career have happened during some sort of a crisis, so I try not to avoid conflicts, but learn from them.

www.eevajokinen.com

Facebook: Eeva Jokinen Ceramics

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