back from finnfest

i have made it home after spending nearly 6 days in duluth. i had initially hoped to post about finnfest at the end of each day, but being a "single parent" for the week {while my husband was in the bwca} quickly made that unrealistic. so i am now faced with a recap-post and i will try to keep it to a reasonable length. i'll start with this commercial that ran for finnfest ... to set the mood.
i wanted to give you an idea of what the language sounds like. i was proudly-surprised that my Finnish came back so fluidly. i was able to speak finnish with people quite easily and i can't tell you how wonderful it felt - both to remember, but also to see that look of pleasant surprise on my distant relatives' faces when they realize they can speak their own language to me ...within reason. so, finnfest started on wednesday night with an opening ceremony. each day of the fest was filled with seminars and presentations. the schedule was so full that many overlapped in order to get them all in to the 4 days. perhaps the most monumental event in the finnfest schedule was the presentation of an honorary doctorate degree to the President of the Republic of Finland, Tarja Halonen. it was a huge deal that she came to finnfest and i must admit that i was pretty overwhelmed with pride and the poignancy of the occasion when she walked in to the arena. my brother and i had no choice but to bring our kids with us and unfortunately, i couldn't tell you too much of what she said in her speech that morning. {note to self: stay home in lieu of bringing almost-three year old son to events that require you to sit still for more than 5 minutes.}
as great as it was to see the president of finland, the event on friday night was actually more FUN: the Midnight Sun MIDNIGHT RUN 5km is a running race that my siblings put on and it is in its 3rd year. it is normally run on the friday night nearest the summer solstice, but was pushed back this year to coincide with finnfest. it is run at the stroke of midnight and follows an out and back course along the boardwalk on lake superior. let me tell you, there is nothing like running at night - with 400 other people! my expectations of my performance were pretty low because i have been doing so many long slow runs in preparation for the twin cities marathon in october. not enough speed work to feel too confident about a 5km performance. BUT, i actually beat my time from last year by about 20 seconds! the other cool thing about the night is that our finnish relatives came out to run and walk it. my sister and i even convinced them to come and soak their legs in lake superior afterwards - nothing like a natural ice bath for your muscles!
this week really proved to be a reflective time for me. the imminent arrival of my friends from finland on august 10th {tiina, teemu and their son eeli will be living with us for 10 months} meeting my distant finnish relatives and being a part of finnfest this week have truly saturated my brain with strong cultural elements that have influenced my life from birth. this saturation along side the task of articulating the ideas and instincts within my work/jewelry has allowed me to make connections that go deeper and that are more meaningful than i could have anticipated. i believe there are times in one's life when we reach an "overlook" of those places along a scenic drive that allows you pull your car over to take in a breath-taking view. these overlooks appear when the setting is ripe for them and yet, i was taken by surprise with this one.

the "big deal" event for the Luonollisesti Suomalainen/Naturally Finnish exhibit was on thursday evening at the duluth art institute in the depot and there was a really great turn-out. exhibits are different than design shops or museum shops or trunk shows. and design is also different than art. there are common threads, but also wide open ravines between the two and while it was absolutely refreshing to be back in art exhibition space/context, it also illustrated for me how much my work has been affected by my architecture and design education and how far i have come since my first art-exhibit in the local coffee-shop at age 18.

the "secondary deal" for the exhibit was the young-artists panel discussion that was on saturday morning at the convention center where the rest of the seminars were taking place. the whole program was in a 45 minute slot and there were five of us {all female} so we each had about 5-6 minutes to show some slides of our work in order to have time for a few questions. i went last, which ended-up being a great place. i hadn't prepared what i was going to say, at all, but had been percolating for about 24 hours and had a rough-mental-draft. i touched briefly on the importance of learning the difference between being finnish and finnish-american during the year that i lived in oulu, finland. and then tried to articulate the root/base of my approach to art and design. i made the mistake of bringing-up a realization i had had just this week about the fact that i grew-up without knowing either of my grandmothers.

one of my grandmothers died of breast cancer less than a year before i was born and the other died of cancer shortly after i was born. i now see the important roles that my son's grandmothers play in his life - but it wasn't until i heard my aunt talk about her grandmother this week {to our relatives} that it really hit me {and it hit me like a ton of bricks right in that spot in your throat that makes you choke-up and feel like your eyes are on fire} - she talked of churning butter and spinning wool into yarn and speaking only finnish .... and it occurred to me that i never learned those 'craft' things that grandmother's pass on to their grand-daughters while the mothers are busy working/tending to the house. it is the grandmothers that passed traditions on to young girls and while my mother taught me how to sew at a very young age, i have been so compelled to learn hand-crafted skills like weaving and knitting and have revelled in the tactile qualities of fabrics and pottery and woodworking. i realized it was in part due to the lack of that influence in my life.

.... so, i had intended mention this internal pull toward the tactile qualities of materials and fabrics and artifacts that has been paired with a life-long exposure to the organization and 'control' of architecture & design. these forces have placed me in the middle of two distinct realms - which ultimately has defined the sensibilities in my work. ... i managed to get these ideas out - but only after i got all choked-up from thinking about my grandmas and had to take a couple breathes to gain control of my speech. ....... i mean, SERIOUSLY! i could not have felt more foolish, but what can you do? in the scheme of 6 minutes, it only lasted like 15-20 seconds and i did pull it together and it ended well. but i couldn't wait to freak-out to my sister, "can you believe i did that?!?!? uuuuggghhhh" {my brothers would say "so dramatic"}

we ended the week with a sunday evening bbq on the beach along park point in duluth to celebrate my brother's {february} wedding to his finnish bride, mimmu. some of the performers at finnfest are her friends and they came to play some music at the party. this is one of the traditional finnish folk songs that one of her friends sang. we all tried to sing and keep up with her ... it was fun trying! we decorated the tables with simple sticks and blue paper flowers thanks to dozi's tutorial. my mom cut them all and they were the perfect touch for the evening.

i am glad to be back home, and feel tired, but revitalized.