The Young Designer of the Year 2018, master cabinetmaker Antrei Hartikainen combines in his work traditional carpentry skills and Finnish wood processing with modern design. Antrei’s wooden furniture and household items have already received a lot of attention both in Finland and abroad. Antrei, who lives and works in Fiskars, also makes unique works combining art and design, in which a utility item is seen in a new light or a different context.
Antrei Hartikainen, you have been selected as Young Designer of the Year 2018. How did you become a designer-cabinetmaker?
I have always been enthusiastic about making things with my hands, be it drawing, painting or woodwork. My interest in wood as a material led me to study to become a wood artisan, which I later supplemented with a vocational examination of woodworking and a master cabinetmaker’s degree. I arrived through internships from North Karelia to Fiskars in 2010. Design has become a visible part of my work while living and working here. I have not wanted to settle for the ordinary, which has brought out the designer in me. My technical skills have accumulated through studying, competing and working in various fields
Where do you draw your inspiration or ideas from?
I observe the seasons, the effect of light and shadow in the environment, and attempt to transfer this delicate yet powerful transformation into my material, wood. I spot interesting shapes and subjects in everything, from nature to architecture and our everyday environment. Often, I get an idea purely from my own needs or some small epiphany.
How would you define your design idiom or ‘style’?
I aim not to label my design idiom too narrowly. I do not want my style to restrict too much what kind of projects I will carry out in the future. My style can vary from discreetly minimalistic to delicately poetic. However, I want all my products and pieces to draw the eye and the hand for closer examination.
Tell us about your cooperation with companies! What is the process of designing a new product like?
Designing a new product can start from a clear necessity or pure desire to experiment and work on some idea you have. I design and work on new products from my own starting points to a large extent; this lets me avoid compromises set by others in too early a stage. In the design, prototype and 0-series stages, I think about what would be the most natural direction for the product. Will I manufacture it myself as a small batch product or will I offer it to a suitable company, with whom it would be developed for their needs? I try to find cooperation partners with whom cooperation is inspiring and effortless.
You make both small batch products and unique works. Does one or the other interest you more?
I do not draw a strict line between art and utility. Along with the small batch products, I realise new works by exploring and experimenting without a predetermined use. Some of my products are a cross between a batch product and a unique work. A unique part realised with crafting techniques brings an interesting tension to an otherwise mass produced product or piece. These works at the boundary of art and design I make in small batches, because it is possible to sensibly carry out both the manual and the mechanical work in batches. Creating such works is especially interesting to me.
When do you feel that you have succeeded?
It is gratifying to dig up prototypes from several years ago, which I am still satisfied with and ready to start working on again. This is when I feel that I have succeeded, even if years ago the works have been left to the prototype phase for some reason.
What inspires you right now?
Music, summer and future projects.
My collection of cabinets for the POIAT company will be launched at Helsinki Design Week and right after that at London Design Fair. In connection with Helsinki Design Week, a numbered vase & lid series produced in cooperation with Katriina Nuutinen will be introduced. As a part of HDW’s series of city installations, I will participate in the realisation of a swinging city cradle in cooperation with Emmi Keskisarja, Janne Teräsvirta, Heikki Paso and Tommi Alatalo. The cradle will be built out of CLT near Havis Amanda.
In addition to all other product development and design work, I will start a series of sculptures which will combine precise automated work with random manual work. This makes it possible to create pieces which can be scaled even to a larger scale and which have a strong presence of the material’s feel, delicateness and surprisingness.