There will be many eye-catching pieces on view at the contemporary design fair PAD, held this week in London’s Mayfair, but one worth lingering on is an extraordinary wooden cabinet embedded with a tapestry designed by the Finnish multidisciplinary artist Kustaa Saksi.
Originally a graphic designer, about a decade ago Saksi went to the Textiel Museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands, which also houses a textile lab and workshop, with the idea of turning one of his visual ideas into a tapestry. “It opened up a whole new world for me,” he says.
Saksi has since been commissioned by fashion brands such as Hermès, to create immersive window displays, and Marimekko, to create fabric collections. More recently he has incorporated his textiles into furniture. He worked with the renowned Finnish cabinetmaker Nikari to create a wardrobe made from the wood of an apple tree with textile work woven of Japanese paper yarn then framed in brass. The result is something out of Narnia; the imagery that Saksi uses is inspired by both fractals and Finnish folklore. “These archetypal — often pagan-era — characters are still very much ingrained in Finnish culture,” Saksi says.
The piece showing at PAD features abstract trees and rock formations woven with eggplant purple, brown, yellow and green threads, a reference to the hiisi, which in pagan times referred to a sacred grove in the forest and then later was redefined as a demonic trickster. “It was the church that probably changed the meaning,” says Saksi. “I’m interested in those ancient mythic figures that have been maligned over time because I think this is a time that we might need them.”