Designer Spotlight: Ville Silvennoinen

Most Marimekko fans have heard about Maija and Kristina Isola, arguably some of the most well-known names in the Finnish brand’s design circle. But with so many new and creative patterns popping up every season, I think it’s important to get to know the rising stars in the industry, too.

One upcoming Marimekko designer that has an interesting story is Ville Silvennoinen. His first pattern for Marimekko was “Maja” (Hut), which we used to carry as a stunning pillow but, by no coincidence, has since sold out. It was inspired by the building projects he would take on as a child, when he wasn’t sewing mitten linings for his mother’s sewing shop. He would carve and build things at his grandmother’s house in eastern Finland during these summers off, and when Marimekko asked him to create the pattern for his master’s thesis and eventually as part of the autumn 2012 collection, he returned to her house where it all began. He still considers his grandmother his greatest mentor.

These childhood experiences hinted to Silvennoinen that he wanted to be working with his hands, not studying engineering as he did for a year before switching majors. With so many passions, it wasn’t always obvious to him which path to take; Silvennoinen grew up wanting to be an athlete, surfer, and world traveler. He was able to travel, spending a year in Australia before returning to Helsinki, where he just wanted to have fun and enjoy his youth. Once the partying was out of his system, however, he began to concentrate on his career goals, and it paid off, big time; he was accepted to the textile design program at the famed Alvar Aalto’s School of Art and Design.

It was this same fearless focus that landed him a spot at Marimekko’s apprentice program and, eventually, its design team.  The program required a two month, intense study session in the artwork studio, where he learned how patterns go from a sketch to industrially manufactured textiles. “At first I wasn’t at all certain about doing my apprenticeship at Marimekko. A lot of people I knew wanted to go there,” he explained. “I also realized that only a few make it as a designer or earn a living through their design work. I felt that I had to keep my options open and not just focus on textile design. Nevertheless, I applied for a designer apprentice at Marimekko. Looking back – I’m really happy with my decision.”

Silvennoinen’s newest pattern for Marimekko’s spring 2013 line was the colorful and creative Kippo (Tilt) design, which was inspired by the bowls in his kitchen cupboard. He created it by cutting up pieces of paper and arranging them into this stacked composition. It takes talent to take something so ordinary and transform into something extraordinarily beautiful. For an artist like Silvennoinen, these everyday moments are opportunities for the next big idea.

We can come to expect more big ideas from the surfer dude gone top designer, as he and Marimekko will continue to work together in the future. Meanwhile, he has his sights set on just riding the waves, taking one day at a time and clearing his mind on his board. He hopes to eventually expand his work further to try larger-scale projects, but will need to find more room as his current work space is no bigger than a closet. I have a feeling that his dream will come true, and that the next time we find Silvennoinen it will be in big places, both literally and figuratively.

A fun, final fact: Silvennoinen’s first Marimekko possession was a cloth wallet in the Lisko pattern by Antti Eklund. We want to know—what is your earliest memory of Marimekko? Leave a comment below!

The information and photographs in this post were taken from interviews between Marimekko and Silvennoinen. Read more about the designer’s journey on Marimekko’s website here, or enjoy this quick Q + A between the two.

2 Comments on "Designer Spotlight: Ville Silvennoinen"

  1. In the 1960s, growing up in Helsinki, my first Marimekko was a pink dress. It looked something like “lilla My” from the moomintroll books. The dress had long sleeves and a body that flared out. Since then I buy Marimekko fabrics every time I come to Finland (from the USA) to visit my family in Helsinki.

    • What a wonderful first Marimekko piece to own– the Little My reference really helps us picture the shape of the dress. It’s great that you are still able to visit Finland to see family and find new Marimekko designs you love, too. Thank you for sharing!

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