Mirjami Rautio

Kemi (1941)

Mirjami Rautio, based in Kemi, uses thread to create original Outsider Art embroidery, that ripples with the magic of Lapland and oriental exoticism. While strong realigiousness might have hampered the freedom of expression, her enthusiasm and skill for handcrafting must have come as heritage from her family, who have invariably been involved in crafting and art. After retiring her work in construction, where she also had positions of trust, the actual inspiration for embroidery came to Rautio a little shy of 20 years ago. She explains to have felt downright panic at the prospect of sudden idleness. To fill this void, beauty came into her life in the form of handcrafting. As things currently stand, the Outsider Art embroidery work passes the time and keeps her solitary life vigourous and full of topics, when siblings or acquaintances visit.

Although the majority of Rautio’s ample embroidery works consist of large tapestries, she has also embroidered caps and mittens, as well as wildly decorated ice fishing belts for herself and her siblings.

Rautio’s art tells stories. The spectrum of the joys and sorrows of life are stored in the embroideries. Often Rautio depicts tales, that she situates in the familiar scenery of her travels in Lapland and Tunisia, in her work. In addition to these creative and telling pieces, she has also made her own versions inspired by Russian and Estonian embroidery models, as if to test her own skills.

Rautio has developed her embroidery technique herself. She creates surfaces and patterns by densely embroiding stiches, different in length and look, side by side and one on the other. Rautio’s lushious free-motion embroidery is distinctive with its blazing colours and strong juxtapositioning. The secret to the effervescent colour palette lies in the silk wool supply, gathered over the years from trips to Tunisia. Deep tones, irrecuperable in Finland, are from there. In turn, fleemarket wool jackets with unpicked seams, offer the canvas for the pieces. When inspiration strikes while traveling, the Outsider Artist’s own skirt or blouse might even end up as a canvas.

Text & photos: Minna Haveri. Translation: Ina Aaltojärvi.