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, June 4, 2012

Inspirations: Kaija Rantakari

Sorry for the delay in posting the Inspirations feature for this month....we had a communication snafu and the interview was lost in the ether for a bit! I'm so pleased to bring you the work of Kaija Rantakari, an artist in Finland whose work I've dearly loved for a very long time. She makes beautiful books and intimate, poignant works with matchboxes in an open-ended series called Letters to You. You'll get to know her through her work and words which follow!

Can you talk a little about your background....how did you come to be making the works that you make?

I come from a long family line of crafty people and I’ve always been encouraged to make things by hand. After a childhood of making stuff at home, I ended up studying writing and bookbinding. I wanted to put my talent to use and make something that could encourage others to feed their creativity, so I’ve mainly focused on making blank notebooks in the hopes that other people would write their hearts out. Lately I’ve created more and more things that are entirely useless pieces of art, small sketches of my emotions and aesthetics.

I'm especially drawn to the intimacy and poignancy of the matchbox pieces....the Letters to You series....can you talk about them....how they started and how they've evolved?

At first I made little matchboxes to keep my creative juices flowing when I started at a new job and found it difficult to find time for bookbinding. Later I realized how well it suited me to make tiny things loaded with meaning and beauty, and I started to take my matchboxes more seriously. I made matchboxes with tiny poetic letters in Finnish and sent them to my foreign friends. I’m terribly good at keeping my own secrets but it felt good sharing them, so as the matchbox project expanded, I began to sell the finished pieces on Etsy and share my stories with strangers. Nowadays hardly any of the pieces include actual letters with writing on them but I still feel I’m conveying a message; these are still my letters to you, to anyone out there, intimate and thoughtful.
My original idea was to make art out of materials I already have and focus more on the act of intuitive creating than on having a plan, and luckily I’ve been able to be faithful to my intuition in the creation of every single piece. Of course some matchboxes are dearer to me than others and I never know beforehand how each one is going to turn out. Still I make a huge mess in the living room and try to make a miracle out of it every time I begin a new matchbox letter.

Is there a typical day....if so, how does it unfold? How do you engage with the work in the studio?

I’ve been fighting depression for years now and it has made it very difficult to maintain a creative routine.  I’m sure the melancholy that comes with depression has made its mark on my work – I’m actually happy about being able to show the fragility and sensitivity to minor details through my work.
Nowadays I tend to work in bouts whenever I have a good feeling about the days to come. I’m a very messy person when I create (actually, always), so I usually begin my work by spreading the possible materials on the living room floor and find just the right combination of textures and colours for whatever I’m making.  I do have a desk that’s dedicated to bookbinding and art but I seem to think better on the floor. (I’m very grateful to have a fiancĂ© who is not only the bee’s knees but extremely patient with my messes too.) Books I make in small batches even though the vast majority of my books are one of a kinds; it really helps me concentrate when I can go into the glue-state-of-mind and spend a couple of hours just stippling glue to various book covers and forget what comes next. One step at a time, one day at a time.

Any books, films that have special meaning for you....do they influence your work?

I’m terrible at remembering names and I even forget the plot the moment a book or a film ends. I only remember the general atmosphere and whether or not I liked it. I’m certain that the art I see/hear/read influences me and my work more than I can ever know. I’m over sensitive, how could it not, but I find it really hard to point out where exactly can you see my adoration of e.e. cummings or David Mitchell. Films I can remember liking more than usual: Blade Runner, Never Let Me Go and Drive. The new Wuthering Heights was visually gorgeous, too, though it did leave me a bit cold as a whole.

Where do you find inspiration?

Colours are my number one on the inspiration list. They never fail me. Fashion, which is pretty directly linked with colours. Materials, naturally. I watch more films than I ever thought I would, I browse through all sorts of vintage things online and I go treasure hunting for vintage materials. London is my favourite place in the world (British people have realized someone wants to pay for their old trash and turn it into art – I never find any cool materials here in Finland) and going there is like taking a vacation from me.

If you could have a small gathering for lively and interesting conversation around the dinner table...and you could invite anyone from history....who might be on your guest list?

Saima – my great grandaunt that I’ve never met but dreamt of many times

Albert H. Munsell – the father of Munsell colour system and therefore must know a lot about colours

Joseph Beuys – a German artist that my mother could have met when she was young but probably didn’t

Alberto Giacometti – a sculptor that made things I want to touch to see if they’re really melting

Find these delightful matchbox works, handmade books, delicate pins and more at Kaija's etsy shop
Paperiaarre. She also has a wonderful blog which you will enjoy! Thank you to Kaija for her generosity in answering these questions and in sharing her beautiful work and process with the world!


  1. Thank you ever so much for this interview. I had never heard of Kaija and am looking forward to checking out her blog. Beautiful, thoughtful words that I'll go back and read several times.

    1. Penny, thank you so much and am very happy to hear that Kaija's work and words are touching you! Best wishes!

  2. Lovely post, P - I seem to recall your mentioning this inspiring artist in your blog in the past, or perhaps I already felt her familiar presence in your similar aesthetic sense? Many thanks for this interview. Hope all goes well.

    1. Gabriella, so glad you liked this interview! Yes, I think we share a similar aesthetic sensibilities underneath....cheers to you, dear!

  3. Thank you for introducing me to Kaija's work and for the wonderful interview! So small but very strong.

    1. Carole, so happy to hear you respond to Kaija's work! I'm a fan of the small and intimate scale....such power in small things!
      Thanks for you comment...cheers!

  4. I found your blog very recently and I just love your work and the work of artists like this one.

    I think you are high on my list of favourites and possible the most inspiring of all:)
    So glad I found you:)

  5. Sue, what a wonderfully heartwarming message! So glad you found me too and thank you so much for your kind words! Glad you also love Kaija's work....it's just so poignant....such meaning carried in the smallest of things. Thanks again for your comment...cheers!

  6. Lovely! I love how so many of us have started work that we, at first, thought of as just a way to get our "creative juices flowing" only to find that this work that called to us to "play" was, after all, much more important.


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