Anssi Aro was a teacher of woodworking, which meant that he was very good with his hands and could work with a wide range of materials. Many people in Sonkajärvi can thank him for the skills they learnt at school. Aro also organised various woodworking workshops for men and women. He also did metalwork, embossed copper and upholstered furniture. He worked with fibreglass, which eventually became his go-to material. He used fibreglass to make objects such as boats, canoes, dinghies, whey drums for a dairy, waterproofing for bathrooms and ice hockey helmets and pads.
Aro’s strong skills allowed him to create a wide range of works of art, and he was enthusiastic about trying different techniques from wood carvings to linocuts, oil painting to pottery and marquetry. He also used mixed media in his art in a very unique manner: one of the collages he made in the 1970s was Isoisän muisto (‘Remembering the Grandfather’). It is made of wallpaper, hair, photographs, oil paint, fabric and fibreglass, which Aro used to give the figure a pair of three-dimensional hands.
Aro never wanted to throw anything away, be it food or materials. He loved creating something new from an object that was no longer suitable for its original purpose. He turned a warped tabletop, for example, into the magnificent wooden relief Leipäenkeli (‘Bread angel’) in 1975. There is something profoundly Finnish about Bread angel. It is about traditional values: deep respect for both bread and hard work.
Text and photos: Mari Kekäläinen Translation: Kirsti Nurmela-Knox