Young Designer of the Year 2020
In his own words, Matias Liimatainen, now Karsikas, is a “designer, sculptor and craftsman.” He is now also the Young Designer of the Year.
Matias Liimatainen has studied glass and ceramic art and design at Aalto University’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture. He has been busy while studying – with solo and group exhibitions, participating in residence programmes in Japan and China, making his own small-batch production. Liimatainen has made unique and serial sculptures, jewellery and lighting, as well as small series of animal-shaped vessels walking the fine line between utility articles and art.
First and foremost, Matias Liimatainen describes himself as a maker. He designs and thinks through making, through the material. For the time being, his primary material has been ceramics, but he is also interested in other media: such as moulding resin and the mixture of wood, ceramics and glass. He believes that ceramics and glass come alive with a contrasting material like wood, that this combination creates a new and interesting relationship. The material is also an inspiration for his work. Liimatainen wants to use his materials in a way that ensures they retain a kind of core characteristic, something elemental to the material. His way of using raw material is based on his own internal logic, he says – how the material can be used and worked with. It is strongly rooted in intuition.
Often, the significance of his work is only revealed to him in time. “The theme of the work is not related to the material, it is an obsessive feeling, it is significant to me and somehow intuitive,” he describes his process. “It cannot be explained during the process, but in a few years’ time I have been able to draw the connection between my works and other works of other artists working at the same time.” That is when the work is successful: it has been able to capture something shared and timely, but in its own form.
Matias Liimatainen’s works are slow. They consist of numerous little pieces, and because making ceramics is slow and the end result is always a surprise, it takes time. According to him, when the finished work is made up of tiny pieces, the end result can be controlled, unlike in large ceramic works made from one piece. Experimenting with glazes and shapes is crucial to his work; for Liimatainen, glazing is a colour, paint, and he has been focused on it for a long time.
Lately, he has been interested in texture, as with wall rugs, he says, small, repeated surface-creating elements, and their rhythm.
Lately, he has been interested in texture, as with wall rugs, he says, small, repeated surface-creating elements, and their rhythm. He looks to weaves, in things like fabrics and knits, and the resulting entities. Earlier, he used to make figurines: robotic creatures that he compiled out of parts cast from clay, using mundane little objects as models, and vessels in animal form. He has also made impressive organic statues reminiscent of moss and lichen.
Even though work on his pieces is slow, the pieces themselves grow and transform quite quickly. Both a strength and weakness, Liimatainen says: when people get used to his style, he has already moved onto another. “But you can always go back,” he says, “continue working on an old idea and combine it with something even older.”
Matias Liimatainen has now found an interest in public works, large architectural pieces that could consist of tile-like elements. He envisions a hybrid between tiles and fabric. Industrial product design is another thing on his mind. Up until now, he has produced his pieces in small batches on his own, like his Fauna vessels in animal form. This method is not suited to his temperament, however, he says, as he prefers unique pieces.
“I am more focused on moving forward, and the works and my products are more studies in material and the utilisation of the results to make quite dysfunctional items… That is why I am excited by the idea of just working as a designer. This would expand the range of materials I use, because I would not be solely responsible for the production,” he says.
Another one of his future goals is to increase the amount of time spent working on artist-in-residency programmes. “I want to study and work in Japan,” Matias Liimatainen says, having spent time in Shigaraki a few years ago. “The local culture and the arts and crafts traditions were empowering and gave me energy to work,” he describes.
The contrast between technique and nature inspires Liimatainen, and it is evident in his works. This can be traced back to his childhood: his roots are in Nivala in northern Ostrobothnia, where his stimuli consisted of nature and video games. His grandfather was an artisan, from him Liimatainen gets his sense for materials and the ability to work them. “My childhood and personal history have made me what I am. I feel that I am quite comfortable making art in my own image because of this. I do not, however, feel that my work is withdrawn,” he says.
Matias Liimatainen mentions Birger Kaipiainen as his role model in ceramics. The same lushness, a fairytale quality and creative use of clay are things they have in common. He names Tove Jansson and Hayao Miyazaki as artists he looks up to in terms of creating a rich visual world – both artists were also prolific and took their work seriously, Liimatainen says.
Matias Liimatainen has now found an interest in public works, large architectural pieces that could consist of tile-like elements.
The future and the environment naturally worry Matias Liimatainen. He considers his personal responsibility rather limited, however, as his production is small and he makes his pieces by hand. But if he were to plan more extensive industrial production, he would have to take a stance: the making of new products would have to be justifiable and the products would need to be made with new types of materials or manufacturing processes that improve on the old.
The profession of designer will not become obsolete, however. Liimatainen believes that material-based design is going to become more and more artisanal. It could also start to resemble fine arts in terms of appreciation. At the same time, vocational teaching has become more versatile and comprehensive
Despite all this, Matias Liimatainen is optimistic. “I am pretty hopeful when it comes to the future. My own and in general. We must be aware of problems and try to find the driving force behind our willingness to solve them. For me, it is not fear.”
Design Forum Finland