Seppo Laatunen

Jaala (1938)

Wood has been an important material for Seppo Laatunen since he was a child. He used to have a frame saw and an axe as toys. He produced his first ‘piece of wooden art’ when collecting firewood in a forest, and it was well received: “My mother packed four litres of sour milk and half a kilo of talkkuna flour for our lunch and said she wouldn’t give us any plates as I could make them out of birch bark. It so happened that there were no birches in that forest, but there were big aspen stumps so I used my axe to carve a deep bowl into a stump. I mixed the sour milk and the talkkuna flour in the bowl and told the others that lunch was ready. My father was a man of few words. I suppose it was the war that made him like that. He didn’t laugh much either but that time he couldn’t help himself. It was at that time that I realised that I could come up with a solution to a problem. After we came home in the evening, my mother and father would laugh every time they looked at me. That’s how it started. Time went by and I was always making objects, wooden skates, axe handles…” What Laatunen learned about handling wood and tools from his father was supplemented with the artistic talents he inherited from his mother. Laatunen’s mother wanted her son to attend an art school, but the lack of funds prevented this plan. Nothing, however, could extinguish the artistic frenzy: “I loved creating things, I was always making something, things that nobody had seen before. I had images of objects in my mind that I was going to make. Once an object was finished, I felt at peace.”

Laatunen worked as a builder and produced his wooden works of art whenever he had time. Since he retired, he has dedicated his time to making art. Laatunen’s art is exhibited at Ateljee Pihkahovi in Jaala, which was completed in 2008. A few hundred tourists visit Pihkahovi every summer. Laatunen wants to make original art. Wood is a material of unlimited possibilities; the ideas are in the material, and they simply need to be carved out of it. Laatunen’s pieces always have a message, an explanation for why he chose to carve a particular motif. A finished work that comes out as planned gives him a sense of peace. “If you can’t explain something in words, you can always make it visible with your hands,” says Laatunen.

Text: Minna Tuuv. Translation: Kirsti Nurmela-Knox. Photos: Kimmo Heikkilä and Minna Tuuva.