Welcome to MissouriBendStudio!

This is an online journal of my artistic investigations and a way to communicate about my work, ideas, quandries and queries! I welcome comments and conversation and do hope you enjoy these musings. My artwork is available in my shop MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.com or on my website.


Monday, December 13, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: The Vessel, Week 2

Greetings from the cold, wintery American Midwest!  Another treat in store this week...I took a very long walk through the universe and found myself in contact with Kaija Rantakari in Turku, Finland!  She is a follower of this blog and some of you may know her work, both as a fine bookmaker and the creator of some little bits of magic that come in the form of matchboxes.  These tiny containers are pure poetry for me...hope they will be for you too!
 I fell in love with these matchboxes when I first saw them in her etsy shop many months ago and thought she might have some important things to say about the "vessel" or "container". I asked Kaija a few questions and her replies, as you'll see, are thoughtful and eloquent.  Each image pictured below will also have the link to the original blog post where you can learn more.  

tissue paper, cardboard, buttons, linen thread, text from a vintage dictionary

1. In your Etsy shop descriptions on each matchbox, you talk about how the series developed...could you briefly talk about their history for the readers of this blog?  You are continuing even now in the form of these "love letters" in a matchbox.

In spring 2008 when I started at a new job I made a matchbox a day (for 16 days) to keep my creativity in a functioning order. In spring 2009 I did something a bit similar. Not a matchbox a day, more like five a day when I felt like it. I wrote letters, in Finnish, to my creative English speaking friends. It was like telling secrets, because even if the dictionary works, my handwriting doesn't. The letters became parts of my matchbox sketches, created with materials within arm's reach. I didn't go out and buy anything or spend time going through my massive stash of stuff looking for just the right color for this or that.

Now I'm writing letters to strangers. All one of a kind, some of them include a letter, a poem or a word. Recently my matchboxes have become more focused on the visual side. I don’t write letters by hand, I share secrets by other means. Now I spend much more time considering the materials and the visual entirety, and the matchboxes have become even more personal than they were when I hid letters inside them. Each box has so much of my own personality and personal history in it that I could probably speak for hours of each and every one of them. I use materials I’ve saved for years for something special; those tiny scraps that are too beautiful to be thrown away, but they’re too small to be used for anything else; those tiny scraps that have been an inspiration for so many different things before they finally found the perfect use. I truly feel like I’m creating something the very roots of my creativity when I make these little boxes, and I haven’t found a better way to describe them than as letters to you. It is me sharing something private with you, the person experiencing my art. I hide layers of me between layers of paper.

paper, vintage book page

2.The matchbook is small and intimate...how did you choose the matchbox as the vessel or container...what does it mean and/or how does it function for you?

I can’t remember how exactly I came up with the idea of using matchboxes for my daily creativity exercises, but I do remember making things out of matchboxes even as a child, maybe drawers for the doll house and things like that. Also, I’ve always been fascinated by sorting bits and pieces into tiny compartments according to various criteria. Matchboxes are perfect for storing tiny treasures, so I guess they were the natural choice of a container for secrets, too.

The tiny size of a matchbox is one thing that keeps inspiring me. I love how there cannot be any excuse to why not display it. It’s so tiny it will fit on display anywhere, and at the same time it’s tiny enough to be kept as a secret. I know someone who carries one of my matchboxes with her just about everywhere. It’s her “little box of calmness”, something she holds on the palm of her hand when she feels the need to daydream a bit.

To me the act of opening the matchbox, the revealing of a treasure or a secret is important. Whoever receives my matchbox letter becomes a participant in our correspondence when they open the box. Usually my letters go unanswered, but I believe it’s only fair since I’m so terrible at replying to others myself.

vintage book page, paper, board

3.  I sense these little communications/letters are very intuitive....is that the case or do you envision them in a sense ahead of time?  What is the process you go through to make each one?
I usually begin just by browsing through my materials and pick something that pleases my eye and fits my mood. After that it’s like putting together a puzzle. The image of the finished puzzle may be missing or very blurry, but once I’ve got the right pieces in my hands, everything falls into place. So yes, the creation of these is very intuitive, but so is everything else I do in my life. I go by gut feeling whenever I can. I have very strong likes and dislikes and this plays a large role in my creating too. Everything needs to be aesthetically just right and as I’ve grown more aware of my personal taste I’m spending more and more time going through everything I own, looking for the perfect paper or thread or illustration to finish a piece. I can easily go through all my belongings to find some little scrap I have in mind but have last seen it months or years ago. I’ve never failed finding what I had in mind.

tissue paper, hand dyed thread, permanent marker, metal

4. Do you have a sense of where these might be going...do you have ideas for what you might be doing with the matchbox perhaps a year from now...or is that too much of a projection?
I had no idea this project would grow into such a large one when I began making Letters to you, but I’m glad it has done so. I enjoy creating these tiny things and even though I sometimes feel like I’m running out of ideas, new ones miraculously appear when I give them a moment to surface.

I would love to have a large exhibition with at least a hundred matchboxes, but I don’t really know how it could be arranged. The matchboxes are often quite fragile and need to be handled carefully. In a gallery environment this isn’t always possible, so the boxes would have to be on display already opened. This takes away the experience of revealing something that was hidden. These tiny but important things can be problematic, so I still need to put some thought into the details.

book pages, ink

5. What is your hope for these pieces?
This is a really difficult question. I hope the pieces I have created are as loved as they were when I made them. I hope the pieces I have yet to create will keep on evolving into something even more special than they are now. Maybe that’s one way to sum it up.

I just love the intimate nature of these little containers and all that they convey through the fragments of the every day objects we often overlook.  Kaija's Etsy shop Paperiaarre, where you will find the matchboxes along with her beautiful bookworks, cards and jewelry, can be found here.  She also has a delightful blog by the same name that you'll want to visit! 

Thanks for stopping by and hope you find these little matchboxes speak to you as they do to me!!!  See you soon...


  1. This is great, Patti. I think what I love most about such tiny vessels, is that you have to slow down and narrow your focus to appreciate them. You would think their diminutive and intimate nature would make them easy to overlook, but, the same way a whisper can command more attention than a shout, they draw you in and compel you to pause and reflect - and then strangely, by bringing you inward to a small place, the effect can be quite expansive, like a sonnet! I can see why that one woman was quoted as saying her box had a calming effect! Many thanks for this post.

  2. Gabriella...you're right about the matchboxes causing you to slow down and pay attention to the easily overlooked...and I love your allusion to the sonnet!

  3. Hi Patti - thanks for featuring Kaija's work. I have been a long term admirer and it was just lovely to read some of the thoughts behind it and her hopes, inspirations and wishes. I love that the scale means you can't refuse to display them; yet also provides them with the cover to the disappear and hide. Brilliant. This is what I was reminded of...

    William Blake - Auguries of Innocence

    To see a world in a grain of sand
    And a heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
    And eternity in an hour.

    Thanks again

  4. What a delightful post. Thanks for sharing this artist with us. When I am feeling small in such a large world, it helps me to think of small worlds, such as these matchboxes.

    I am a fan of small and personal. Now I am a fan of this artist!

  5. Fiona...what a perfect poem to go with this post...thanks for sharing!
    So glad you love her work too....not surprising at all! Thanks for taking time to comment!

  6. Kim...delighted to hear it! Nothing like an intimate scale of a something hand held to put things in perspective! Thanks for your comment here!


I'm happy to hear from you...comments and questions are welcome!