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Tribute to Finnish Art Rugs

"Ryijyneilikat" - "Rug Carnations", a mixed media painting with watercolors and colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

I made this painting just before Christmas but as it has a special story, I wanted to blog about it later when I had more time to write. Actually, I didn’t even plan for creating anything in the middle of holiday cleaning and cooking. But I just had to.

Finnish Art Rugs

Namely, my husband bought a wall art rug (“ryijy” in Finnish) from an online auction and it happened to arrive just before Christmas eve. We had been searching for one for some time. It had to suit with the colors and style of our living room and not be enormous (as many of them often are). We had a designer in mind too – Ritva Puotila, a Finnish woman who has recently designed carpets for her own company Woodnotes. In 1950-60s, she used to design beautiful, painterly Finnish art rugs. The rug that my husband found was her design called  “Fireside Evening” and I think it looks wonderful in our mid-century modern living room (which has a fireplace in the opposite wall).

Finnish wall art rug, ryijy, Fireside Evening, designed by Ritva Puotila

As you can see from the close-up photo, the rug is not only black and red but has many colors to create the painterly effect. At those times, in 1950-60s, wall rugs were fashionable in Finland and especially these kind of rugs that are as much modern art as home textiles. Many women bought the patterns and sewed or weaved their rugs by themselves. My mother was one of them. She chose a rug design called “Ruutrikki” (a made-up word that resembles “broken squares”) and the designer might have been Päikki Briha, if I remember correctly. Here’s an old photo of me and my father showing the rug in the background. That rug also has a lots of colors. It was difficult to zoom in, but hopefully you get the idea.

Ruutrikki, a Finnish art rug, ryijy

While touching and admiring our new red rug, I got very emotional. My mind was filled with mixed emotions. I was happy about the new art textile that would bring a warm atmosphere to our living room. On the other hand, while browsing the old photos, I saw people that have passed a way, photographed in front of my mother’s rug. When I remembered that many of those art rugs were sketched with watercolors and then transformed to a grid pattern, I just couldn’t help it. I had to take out my watercolor set and start a new painting even if it was getting late and I felt pretty tired.

Creating a Mixed Media Painting

While painting, I didn’t think about anything particular, but of course, the rugs found their way to the end result …

Creating of "Ryijyneilikat" - "Rug Carnations", a mixed media painting with watercolors and colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

The painting turned out to be some kind of still life with a dark vase and few sad-looking carnations. Carnations were my mother’s favorite flowers and my father used to buy them for her every year, at their wedding anniversary.

A detail of "Ryijyneilikat" - "Rug Carnations", a mixed media painting with watercolors and colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

If you look at Finnish art rugs at my Pinterest board, many of them have some kind of melancholy in them. Maybe it’s caused by a combination of muted colors, high contrasts and simplified, abstract approach. These were the elements that used in my painting too.

I finished the painting with colored pencils and named it as “Ryijyneilikat” – “Rug Carnations”. They are imaginary flowers that grow downwards, that are not used to be centerpieces, that blend in the background. They enforce other elements of the still life to step up and go forward. Just like my modest mother did for her children.

"Ryijyneilikat" - "Rug Carnations", a mixed media painting with watercolors and colored pencils by Peony and Parakeet

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15 thoughts on “Tribute to Finnish Art Rugs

  1. Your story impressed me. You are so cute lying next to your dad, both of you relaxed and reading your own thing, yet connected. My heart was deeply touched as we all remember good moments,
    but life keeps on and we have to adapt. Thanks for sharing.

  2. There is melancholy in your painting BUT it is warm not cold. Rugs bring warmth the same as family and memories and home. Sometimes I think of my family members that have died and it makes me sad but somehow, the trigger that caused the memory usually is a happy one and brings warm, and quiet joy when once I really think about the memory. My husband (my childhood sweetheart) was always so healthy but at 48, died in his sleep. I was 46 and shocked as were all that knew him. When I think of the Grandkids that he never knew, it is sad but then I remember how he would have teased them and talked with them so much. That brings me peace to think about and the happy takes over. I always try hard to bring “happy” into my life whenever and wherever I am since I enjoy spreading as much as possible in the life I have. Your art has given me a happly place to explore my imagination and I think I’m very blessed to have you in my life. I used to grow a wild variety of red carnation that smelled like cinnamon and my Father wore one in his suit coat every sunday when he “ushered” at church. A carnations always reminds me that my Father is gone while they fill me with that quiet peace in remembering how he always smelled so good wearing that flower. You are very good at remembering to use contrasts in art and I think that the good and sad emotions that come with memories are the contrasts in our soul enabling us to enjoy the memories more.

  3. Päivi, thank you for sharing that emotional story. The way you connect to the physical world with your imagination and art is truly a gift. You have revived your childhood and loved ones while creating something that holds them.

    Thank you for making your personal journey a lesson about the power of art and memory.

  4. I loved your story Paivi, and I’m particularly interested because for a short while in my late teens I had a Finnish penfriend with the same first name as yours. We stopped writing after a while but I remember her blond hair and the beautiful countryside in her photos. So you have revived some of my memories too!

  5. Thank you for sharing your story Paivi. You are a gentle soul. I enjoyed your painting. I see all kinds of other images that you did not mention and I owe that to being in your previous class. Thank you.

  6. As in life, beautiful art can be bitter-sweet. A wonderful homage to those who are gone. The painting is powerful. I loved reading this Paivi, it was gracious of you to share. I loved the rugs and the painting.

  7. I really LOVE this piece Paivi!! And it’s always interesting to hear the story behind your art – you have such a connection. Thank you for sharing!

  8. I always felt that such sadness came from the lack of sunlight during the long winters and overcast days. Your carnations are beautiful, they are like ice flowers.

  9. Paivi, this is wonderful. I love the painting, the rug & the story that goes with it. It took me back to that period in my life when I was weaving rugs & even made one hooked rug. It’s the associations & memories which often inspire our art.

  10. Thank you for sharing this beautiful event with us. It has made me think so much of my grandparents and those who loved me who have now gone on.
    I have just recently discovered your blog and website and find it all very inspirational.
    Thank you!

  11. Thank you all for your comments! I was a bit afraid of being too melancholic. But I think we all have memories that can feel painful or bittersweet at times, that’s what my painting expresses too.

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