On meeting Eini Saukkonen, it is easy to believe that art promotes well-being. Although she is almost 90, she has to keep fit if she wants to be able to continue to make her large sculptures.
Saukkonen creates her sculptures from recycled materials. For her bird sculptures, she first made a frame out of reinforced concrete and then covered it with detailed, hand-painted glass mosaics.
Saukkonen, who ran a photographer’s studio before retiring, has always been busy with handicrafts and she also has green fingers, but it was her large bird sculptures that turned her into an artist. Saukkonen’s garden is adorned not only with a barbecue she built herself and inventive pieces of furniture, but it also features a majestic, colourful rooster standing tall on a rock, a plush owl, and a swan whose feathers are made from coffee cups and saucers. It is the enormous peacock, however, that attracts the most attention: its train is almost two metres wide.
In 2018, the peacock was on display at the Craft Museum of Finland’s Pehmeetä touhua – Nordic outsider craft exhibition, where it was enthusiastically received by the audience. That’s when Saukkonen decided that she would give up fiddling with small pieces to focus all her energy on creating a new large-scale sculpture. Its subject, the Fighting Capercaillies, is a painting familiar to all Finns. Work started on the glass-feather version of the painting, and the schedule for creating the birds was tight. The deadline was to be June 2019, the artist’s 90th birthday; it will be Saukkonen’s birthday present to herself.
The magnificent garden surrounding the house was also created for her own pleasure, and Eini built and lovingly maintained it for years with her late husband, Matti. The award-winning paradise garden displays both art and well-maintained plants and water features. It was winter when I visited the site, but I could still imagine how the fountain, pond and stream must enliven the beautiful environment when it is in its green glory.