In patterns: Ville Silvennoinen

People January 25th 2013

In patterns: Ville Silvennoinen

Photos: Robert Lindström & Marimekko

“Colour gives character to textile design. It can make a pattern glow with warmth or be calm and cool. You can even design patterns using the most unexpected combination of colours. You just have to be bold and ignore your own favourite colours. To me, the relationship and harmony between colours is more important than the colour scheme I happen to be working with.”

Ville Silvennoinen is one of the newest members of Marimekko’s design team. In 2012, Ville’s Maja (Hut) pattern was included in Marimekko’s autumn collection. For this year’s spring collection Ville has designed Kippo (Cup) – a new playful pattern in which stacks of colourful bowls bob up and down like apples in a barrel.

Surf up. “Engineering – not my thing,” says Ville, who switched to studying crafts and design after one year of engineering studies. He had acquired an interest in working with his hands from his mother who sewed for a living. Finding his own passion, however, took some time. Ville wanted to see the world, travel to white sandy beaches, experience the freedom of youth, and of course learn to surf. He was in no hurry to settle down in a pattern.

After spending a year in Australia, Ville returned to Finland full of enthusiasm and energy. He was already planning a new journey, but he had to put his travel plans on hold, because there were no job opportunities in his hometown. Ville moved to Helsinki, where having fun was his top priority. 

My own path. “It can’t be true. I got in.” Ville was accepted into the textile design programme at Aalto University’s School of Art and Design on his first try. Bored with the party life and lying on his friends’ couches, he had focused all his energy on the entrance exam. Ville felt that he was gradually finding his own path in life. “I wouldn’t have been accepted if I’d applied straight from high school. The timing couldn’t be better.”  

Homemade designer. Ville spent his childhood and adolescence near Kouvola – a city in south-eastern Finland known for its paper industry. His father was a surveyor and his mother a self-employed seamstress. The family also included a brother and a beloved dog. Getting the pet, however, required a little begging from both of the children. It was life sweet life.

In the mid-90s, Ville got interested in snowboarding and discovered Burton, the legendary snowboard brand. The company made a huge impression on Ville, who would study each new Burton catalogue with monk-like devotion. “Totally relaxed. I really like Burton’s workmanship and design philosophy.” Even today Ville talks about how these catalogues inspire him visually. 

As a kid, Ville loved spending his summers in grandmother’s home in eastern Finland, near the border with Russia. It was a place where he felt free. “I could go fishing, crave pieces of wood with my knife or build all kinds of things.” When Marimekko asked Ville to design a pattern for his master’s thesis, the young designer returned to his grandmother’s home for the first time in many years. There he would sketch away the day as he worked on Maja – a pattern design inspired by his childhood building projects. The pattern would eventually make it to Marimekko’s autumn 2012 collection.

Practice makes patterns. Ville’s relationship with Marimekko began through an apprentice programme. He spent two intensive months in Marimekko’s artwork studio, learning how pattern sketches are transformed into industrially manufactured textiles. “At first I wasn’t at all certain about doing my apprenticeship at Marimekko. A lot of people I knew wanted to go there. I also realized that only a few make it as a designer or earn a living through their design work. I felt that I had to keep my options open and not just focus on textile design. Nevertheless, I applied for a designer apprentice at Marimekko. Looking back – I’m really happy with my decision.” 

After Ville had completed his apprenticeship, Petri Juslin, manager of Marimekko’s artwork studio, suggested that Ville could do his master’s thesis work for Marimekko. Ville took up the offer. The original plan was to use Ville’s pattern design as a way to test the limits of the new print machine in Marimekko’s Helsinki factory. But the test pattern proved to be so successful that it was included in the autumn collection. A new talent had arrived.  

Ville’s Kippo design for this year’s spring collection is all about everyday moments. “I like how I was inspired by something as ordinary as the bowls in my cupboard. I was fascinated with the way they look – all stacked up and colourful.”

Marimekko and Ville Silvennoinen will definitely continue to work together in the future. But before that Ville has his sights on riding the next big wave. “When I’m surfing, I feel free and at one with myself. There’s room to think.”