Ullakaisa Kaarlela

Pori (1950)

Ullakaisa Kaarlela was born in Ostrobothnia in 1950 and now lives in Pori. Initially she wanted to become a set designer, but when she did not pass the college entry exams on her first attempt, she gave up that idea and studied advertising instead. She has eight children, all of whom now live away from home except the youngest, who is disabled and needs a lot of attention. Many of Kaarlela’s works were created during long periods of waiting in hospitals and other institutions. Even though religion and motherhood play enormous roles in Kaarlela’s life, they do not solely define who she is. Along with making art and caring for her big family, she has also built a career for herself; for years she has been conducting interviews for Suomen Gallup. She loves the job, as she likes people and enjoys hearing their stories.

The motifs for Kaarlela’s works spring from a world of insight, dreams, visions and omens. However, the border between this world and reality is open for her to come and go. Her works evolve from both: their spirit and sparkle from the invisible and the stories behind the pictures from the people Kaarlela has met and, in particular, from the lives of her own children. Making art is a joy as well as a form of therapy. “Embroidering takes my mind away from the shocking events of the everyday; I sometimes feel like I flounder through my life.” She uses a needle and thread to embroider her stories onto fabric. Details and colours find their final expression as the work progresses. The feel of the material in her works is vibrant, strong and very three-dimensional. The pieces are rather small, but they have plenty of thread and even more colours and emotions.

Text: Tuula Karjalainen. Translation: Kirsti Nurmela-Knox. Photos: Minna Haveri.