Seija Hakala

Kärkölä (1945)

What Seija Hakala creates is not obvious art involving sculptures, textiles or paintings. Perhaps it could be best described as an activity in the spirit of DIY that is turned into ITE art by its audience and a sense of community.

It all started for Hakala when an outdoor building was left empty on the fringes of her garden. She came up with an idea that she could build a play shop in the building. The project, which she started with her spouse Heikki, “got a little bit out of hand” and in the end, there are many corner shops that pale in comparison with their shop filled with genuine packages and skilfully made models of grocery products.

Kärkölä’s Village Shop for Children appealed to children in the neighbourhood, and there were more than a thousand visitors. Hakala did not have a guest book at first, so the exact number is not known.

The more you have, the more you want, and when a forest plot became available next door, Hakala had the idea of creating an outdoor playground. Röllimetsä, which had various trails, climbing frames, swings and huts, attracted busloads of visitors and happy players. Eventually it all became too much for Hakala, and vandalism was the last straw that closed the playground. By that time, there were more than 4,000 names in the guest book.

Hakala is inspired by handicrafts and collections. An evening dress is made out of sweet wrappers and a ryijy rug of promotional pens. Hakala says that making things is not only an outlet for her creativity, but also a form of therapy. Focusing on chores makes it easier for her to handle the hardships of life. She has always liked making postcards, and she has created countless postcards over the years with different themes, texts and illustrations using the cut and paste technique. It may take weeks to find the letters for a single card in newspapers, while sometimes the right material for a card for a friend can be toilet paper.

Card-making, which used to focus on different holidays and celebrations, has expanded in a surprising and communal direction during the coronavirus pandemic. Hakala has started to compile installations on the themes of various holidays for people in her neighbourhood to marvel at. This project has also become a minor phenomenon in local social media groups. Hakala is a well-known character in the village, and she was even voted the Honorary Village Idiot by a large margin in 2021, when the award was granted for the first time.

Text and images: Juho Haavisto