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Beauty and the Beast – The true story of Estonian men and women

Written by Gunnar Sorensen

Gunnar Sorensen is a Danish comedian who has been living in Estonia for a couple of years. Here offers exclusively for FREE! Magazine a pick of what you can find in his blog, treating with sense of humor his views on Estonian women and men:

A friend came to visit me in Tallinn and asked very honestly while in a nightclub “Why are there so many prostitutes in here”!!! Before you think we were in a very seedy place, we were not. What he was simply referring to is that Estonian woman are far more attractive than their male counterparts.

So why is it like this? Well for every 100 men in Estonia there are 119 women, rising to almost 130 in the capital city Tallinn, comparing to 1/1 in Sweden. This phenomenon creates a high demand and competition for available men.

So how beautiful are the women? Well Estonia has the highest number of international models per capita than any nation in the world. When walking the streets of Tallinn you will not just notice the beauty of the women, but also the sheer number of beauty salons created to cater to their need.

Estonian Women

So guys, sound like the perfect country? Well it gets better. All those hours you spent in the gym, that funky new haircut, the expensive suit etc…! In Estonia you don’t need that!! Well with the vast surplus of women that classic image of the man chasing the women has been reversed. So you can put on your comfortable sports trousers and that favourite old hooded jumper and still get the girl!!

This lack of effort needed by Estonian men to get a girlfriend is summed up by this pick up line I heard an Estonian man say one evening “Do you like having sex with men?”

Not only is the girl hotter and easier to get with, you know that night out you want to go on with your friends, guess what? She will let you go!!

I know you are asking, before I quit my job and get on the ferry, what’s the catch?
Well did you know that Estonian men live on average just 69 years, the lowest in the whole of the EU! A large part of the reason behind this is typified in the popular joke ¨ That awkward moment when an Estonian man is sober”. Considering all the attractive girls and all the fun you can have, it sounds like a reasonable sacrifice right??? Maybe not….
That idea of the perfect wife, family and home you had in your mind it is not likely to happen in Estonia. Present figures show that in Tallinn alone 80% of high school students are living in single parent families.

Akarusa Yami

Although us men would almost certainly unite in saying having a few drinks with our friends would be preffered to putting up those shelves for the mother in law. It is now clear that our Scandinavian women are just helping us to become better men and healthier, husbands and fathers.

For those who want to know more about me and how I came to this conclusion. I am a Danish citizen who has been living in Tallinn, Estonia for the past 2 years. I work in the Finance sector, but since arriving in Estonia it is the psychological aspect of the people that has most interested me.

I noticed almost instantly the cold and serious nature of Estonians, however what struck me must profoundly was the countries lack of laughter. With no real comedy shows on TV and no internationally known comedian. I found out very quickly that the only people trying to make Estonia laugh were foreigners.

Although the humour of my blog has encountered some negativity in the Estonian press. It would be hard to find a comedian who has not experienced that at some point. It is our duty to use humour to test the boundaries and bring those avoided or controversial topics in to daily conversation.

For more humour about Estonian men come and visit my blog:

http://eestimees.wordpress.com/

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Beer vs. Wine

Written by Alex Hillsberg

It’s an age-old debate, probably as old as the most antiquated oak barrels and brew pots. Behind the waggish claims from both beer and wine camps, sober or otherwise, lies a serious battle to wrestle market shares in developed and emerging markets and across generations.

If we go by votes, the people who altogether consumed 189 billion liters of beer in 2011 clearly outnumbered those who drank wine for a collective 24 billion liters in the same year. But sales can be misleading.

As highlighted in the infographic below, wine is gaining popularity—more pronouncedly in the United States according to a Gallup survey—even as beer consumption is sliding down in traditional markets, such as, horror of horrors, Germany. Early this year, Time reported that beer drinking hit a record low in the land of lederhosen and dirndl.

It didn’t also help for brewers that China, the number one beer market, is developing a taste for wine. In fact, Great Wall, the number two wine brand last year… great what? Exactly. The Chinese wine is a newcomer and was hardly known brand in the industry three years ago. Just last year it easily took the second spot spurred by millions of Chinese who started liking wine. “We will make a French Great Wall, a Chilean Great Wall and an Australian Great Wall,” Shu Yu, a senior manager at the company behind Great Wall, said. Brewers may not be the only ones paying nervous attention to this upstart, but the other top wine makers, too (check their rankings below).

Meantime, brewers lament that wine lobbyists hijacked most of the health claims. Beer is healthy, too, they say, at least in some respect as pointed out below in the infographic, notably that beer is kind to kidneys.

Likewise, one subtle but significant data we uncorked is that wine drinkers’ preference is more evenly spread than beer drinkers’. Cabernet, Merlot, and Pinot Noir among reds and Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc among whites are the top varieties of choice. For beer, only two styles—pale lagers and pilsners—account for most of the top beer brands. Does it suggest wine drinkers have a more sophisticated taste? We dare not ask a Bavarian.

So who wins? Maybe it depends on when you ask the question. This season of Oktoberfest celebrations around the world, it may be advisable to quietly sip and enjoy your wine in one corner. Prost!

Facts and figures comparing popular wines and beers such as Brown Ale and Cabernet Wine as well as the most well-known festivals, like the Fete Des Vendages Wine Festival.
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Breaking the Surface Tour: Bringing talent together!

Bringing the Surface tour is an interesting project that was surfing by bus for 10 days around the Nordic countries until arriving in Helsinki, the Finnish capital.

On head of this is Danish composer and musician Jonas Andreasen together with Finnish singer Sini Koskelainen and a bunch of talented musicians that belong to their “Near Life Experience” project that headed on this adventure from Aarhus in Denmark through Norway, Sweden and Finland, interacting with other local bands, gathering musical ideas, and offering an exciting show full of music, visual effects and dance, brought by the Finnish dancer Nadja Alve.

Near Life Experience

We met the crew just before their final performance at Gloria Cultural Centre in the heart of Helsinki. After 10 days on the road, they were tired and dreaming of a hot shower, plus it was not the easy end when part of the band got sick with food poisoning. However, they were full of illusion to perform in a city that Andreas recognized loves, having lived and studied in Helsinki. Before the local band Elifentree would warm up the atmosphere with some amazing skills by his drummer, it was time to sit with Andreas and drummer Frej Lesner so they could tell us more about how the tour went:

Thanks for your time! Can you tell us a bit more, Andreas, how the project to go on the road for these 10 days came up and how you met Sini (Koskelainen)?

Jonas: I was studying in Aarhus and Sini came there, we heard each other play, and I had a chance to play with her quarter. We just liked each other’s stuff and energy. I wanted to write music with a bigger group but I had difficulties to find a singer, so when I met Sini, it was a super good connection. That is how it goes started, and then we wrote music together and I arranged everything. We put the band together and we did a project together that was a big success in Aarhus. That is how the band got started. Now she is living in Helsinki and I am living in Berlin and all the musicians are in Aarhus. We received the support of a cultural organization there and we are glad to get any help, because it is difficult to tour with a relatively unknown band.

Did you know the other musicians beforehand?

Jonas: They come from all over Denmark, except of the trombone player who is Swedish. Very talented musicians that I was lucky to be able to handpick. Here is Frej, the drummer, one of the first I asked to join the band. So far we had been playing only in Denmark, so this is a big step for us.

You were in other countries sharing the stage with other bands. How was the experience to meet other musicians?

Frej: It was great, I heard some bands with some great musicians. Also this band in its own, it is great to play with this band, they are all great musicians. There is no hiding when you have to play, you have to take control of the music. And we also get to know new places to play. It is very difficult when you are sitting in Aarhus to know for example where to play in Helsinki. So it is great to expand the network.

Near Life Experience

So how is to be on the road traveling by bus for 10 days? What other activities did you do… did you get much sleep time?

Jonas: We would mostly sleep when the bus was driving, but actually not so much sleep. Everyone has been sick also. But well, this is also part of it, it is something you have to do. But it has been so great musically, we have got so much, a good response from all the audience. When we arrive in a new town, we hang around the city, and then a lot of hours in the venue doing the soundcheck, getting something to eat, doing the show… and then on the road again.

They always say that Finland is different than the other Scandinavian countries. Now that you got the experience to tour around all of them, what is your feeling?

Frej: Well, just the language itself is different. It is kind of a mixture of Russian and Nordic culture, somehow.
Jonas: I have been living in Aarhus and Stockholm and Helsinki. I really love Finland so much, feel close to the Finns and to Helsinki. It has less of the Scandinavian “stiffness” that we have in Denmark and Sweden.

What people can expect from the show tonight? What are the backbone ideas behind the show?

Jonas: I would tell them to open their hearts and ears and eyes. It is a mixture, we try to have a big visual side of what we do musically. That is the idea behind the dancing of Nadja. We have some music that some people say that is hard to listen to, a mix of jazz and modern language with a lot of improvisation. Giving some visual expression really help people to get the music and get into it. A lot of people say that it was great and they had never heard anything like that.

Near Life Experience

So do musicians get a lot of freedom to improvise?

Frej: Well, for me as a drummer, I feel that everything I play is something I have invented myself, but of course always on the frame of what Jonas want.

Jonas: I write a lot, but I write for certain people I know very well. So I know or at least I try to write what people need to play. There are places where people do a lot of free style, but of course I need to bring some overview. To know the direction and why something is happening right now.

What are your future plans after you finish this tour?

Jonas: We have the EP with 3 songs and we are releasing a full album, already recorded, this fall. So many things going on!

For coming back, will you go back by bus or flying?

Both: Flying! Enough bus for a while!

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Top 5 Gambling Locations

Gambling holidays are incredibly popular, with people traveling far and wide to splash some cash and feel the thrill and adrenaline that comes with the roulette wheel. While the option to stay at home and use sites like Gaming Club is there, it doesn’t have the same feel as being there in person.

Rather than just list all the American gambling locations, the list is as international as possible, to offer a whole range of gambling hotspots, some might even surprise you!

5. Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

It’s impossible to think about a gambling holiday without considering Las Vegas; it’s the most famous gambling location in the world. If you’ve never been it’s worth going, with iconic casino’s, miniature world landmarks, 24 hour gambling action, Elvis Presley impersonators, and all the shows you could ever want to see – it really is a testament to human entertainment. It’s not number one on the list because that’s too obvious, I wanted to show what the rest of the world has to offer, rather than just America.

Las Vegas

4. Aruba, Caribbean

While you might be looking for a gambling holiday, you’ll still want other things to do between trips to the casino, and what better way to spend a day than lounging in the Caribbean sun, on one of the finest beaches in the world, with a rum based cocktail in hand? After a day of relaxing you’ll enjoy the adrenalin rush of the casino even more. With some spectacular casinos like Allegro Aruba Beach and Crystal Casino, you’ll never spend long looking for somewhere to spend the night and earn some chips.

3.Sun City, South Africa

South Africa is becoming more and more popular, and while it might not be an obvious choice for a gambling vacation, casinos are quickly spreading throughout South Africa, with Sun City being the number one place for gambling. Luxury hotels and fine restaurants back up the casinos of Sun City, they even have shows that match up to what Vegas has to offer! In some respects Sun City top Vegas, since it is placed next to Pilanesberg Game Reserve, so during the day you can go on safari and see the spectacular wild life and scenery of Africa!

2. Macau Region, China

Macau is separate from Mainland China and has an economy heavily dependent on tourism and because of that casinos became big business in Macau and it is quickly becoming the new hotspot for gambling in the world. Casino owners from Las Vegas have even started opening casinos here, which says a lot about the future of Macau. The largest casino in the world, The Venetian Macau, is in Macau, one of the casinos opened by owners from Las Vegas. So this seems like the new gambling vacation destination!

1. Monte Carlo, Monaco

While Las Vegas has the bright lights, Monte Carlo has the elegance. One of the most beautiful places in the world, its likely that while at a casino here you’ll end up competing against celebrities, royalty, and billionaires. It’s certainly no cheap holiday that’s for sure, but after visiting all the other destinations you should have enough winnings to go and rub shoulders with the elite.

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Interview with Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, Creative Director of Marimekko

Text by Eva Blanco

Marimekko is all about colour. That is the first thing you realize when you step into the headquarters of the brand located in Herttoniemi (East Helsinki). Suddenly your eyes start travelling from one canvas to another – their patterns being all around the building as part of the interior decoration-, and you get the growing conviction that you have just entered into some kind of wonderland, where people are stylish, smile at you for no reason, and, most probably, are also able to levitate and make themselves transparent to avoid being disturbed. Anything is possible when you are surrounded by all those fabrics printed with their daring designs. But, be careful before continuing to read! It has been proved recently that colour, when consumed in large quantities, may have dangerous consequences on your brain – it can enhance your creativity or put you in a summery mood! We have already warned you, from now on, it ́s your own responsibility!

Translated into English, Marimekko means “Mari’s dress”. Mari, Mery, María… For Armi Ratia, who founded the brand in 1951, this ubiquitous name contained two of the most fascinating characteristics, simplicity and functionality. All of us – you too, unless your mother was told you were to be a boy- could have been Mari. That is why it seems so easy to identify ourselves with the name, maybe as easy as Armi wanted it to be for all of her fellow citizens to be able to also identify with her textile designs. A personal wish that, more than sixty years later in the history of the brand, has not only been widely accomplished but indeed seems modest compared to the growing international dimension of the house.

Marimekko

In 2011, the year of its half-century anniversary, Marimekko opened its own flagship store on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway in New York, together with six more commercial spaces in the United States – especially located on the West Coast. Plus, due to the strong sales growth, the Asia-Pacific region became the brand’s second-biggest market, following the lead of Finland, which represented up to 64% net sales in the same period. Last year the company entered the Chinese market via Hong-Kong, thus securing a concrete business strategy that has been defined by its President and CEO, Mika Ihamuotila, in these words: “Dynamic expansion requires patience from the company and its shareholders, but I am convinced that this will be fruitful for Marimekko in the long term”.

With the arrival of Spring , Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, Marimekko’s Creative Director, has allowed us into their offices and beloved textile printing factory so that we can visit them and discuss the future challenges a brand with a well defined local identity needs to confront when its products are being sold in approximately 40 countries. Minna gives me a firm handshake, smiles generously and, as if to break the ice, confesses that it feels so good to finally have a face to face interview, rather than speak only by phone as she had been doing lately. Then, when she begins to talk with passion about the brand’s creative philosophy, I can’t help wondering…Would it ever have crossed her parent ́s mind to have called her Mari? After all, both names did start with a capital “M”.


If you had to describe the brand to somebody who has never heard about it, what would you say?

All in all, Marimekko is an aesthetic understanding and interpretation of our everyday life. We translate it into shape, colours and patterns. We could say that it is more like a way to live. More than sixty years of history has proved that our aim is to be present in every detail of our customer’s world – not only through fashion and clothing but also through fabrics where print creates a special atmosphere in the home, or even through the cups you use for your daily coffee break!. When you are an aesthetically orientated person, and you love to arrange space in a particular way, you have to take into account that you look at the same objects constantly and, thus, a very special bond needs to be established with them. So, I believe they are also an active part of your life.

Then, of course, there are some days when you wake up longing to introduce some new, and often contradictory, products into your personal space, and though it may seem to be a little disturbing for the usual harmony, by doing that you can find something truly fresh. In this house we are always open to these kind of contradictions. For instance, if you think about our history, in Finland it is commonly known that the creation of the brand after the war, in 1951, coincided with a time when the most part of the population living in the countryside decided to move to the cities. And their life there was different from the one they used to have back in their villages, their regular activities now were much closer to the academic spheres and to the office work. So, from Marimekko they were able to find some of those things they were missing the most from their homeland…maybe even some emotions like the one inspired by the sunrise, interesting winds, rocks, sea landscapes….In short, they brought a reinforced romantic feeling back into their lives. And that ́s how the brand became a part of them.

Marimekko

So, we could conclude that some concepts such as the reinterpretation of the rural world, or the search for comfort inside the Finnish nature are key issues for the company…

Of course those are key concepts for us, but, if you think about the present context, now that people have been living in the cities for several generations, there is a growing opposition between constructions and natural spaces. And I consider this to be a very interesting collision concerning both nature and architecture: they must coexist together, understand each other, and somewhere in that dialogue there is an intersection which Marimekko also tries to be part of.

So, how would you say the creative philosophy has evolved over more than sixty years of history?

The main idea for our creations is related to the aesthetic thinking. In every decade we have trusted our designers intuition, how they perceive the world and reflect the time they are living in through their compositions. But I have to say that now the world has become bigger for us as a brand than it used to be. We didn ́t operate at the same international level in the past as we currently do – though we had some interesting global contacts, we worked mostly in Finland and Scandinavia. Our beginnings go back to the first printed fabrics, which later on were transferred to women’s fashion collections. Back then we were a smaller company, but now that we are immersed in a global market with customers in varied locations, we need to have a deeper understanding of different cultures and religions, as those are two of the factors shaping people’s everyday lives.

Thus, we try to conceive our designers ideas and creations also as an ingredient of the global discussion. In Finland, due to our geographical situation, there is a very interesting conversation taking place between East and West, and we got a lot of influences from the Russian esthetic but, at the same time, also from the whole of Scandinavia that surrounds us. Also, Finnish people we are quite practical – we tend to solve things without complicating matters. I believe that approach has helped us in Marimekko to give effective answers in this new era of global demand.

What do you consider to be the main challenges for the future in this global market context?

In my view, one of the biggest challenges we will have to face in the near future is maintaining our ability to discuss and look at things from an open perspective – normally the creative team have that broad vision, but sometimes they are also challenging. So, as a designer, you should follow your intuition and expertise, but at the same time you are required to be receptive to that demands coming from people located in different market areas, like, for instance, the west coast in US.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your main markets nowadays?

Well, basically we would be talking about Finland, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. Then, in the last two years we have opened stores in the U.S, Hon-Kong and Australia. So it is very exciting to compare all these different markets, and realize that, despite the cultural gap, people act in a coincidental way everywhere. There is not such a dramatic difference if you look at the broad landscape. All of us have to sleep, eat and to go to work, and, at the emotional level, we are all looking for similar things. Plus, the Asian market seems to be really close to the Scandinavian one, overall in the kind of attitude they manifest…they are more profound, sophisticated, quieter!.

Minna Kemell-Kutvonen

Due to its undeniable success, the Unikko pattern (1964) was one of the main achievements in the Marimekko’s history, which other do you have?

First off, let me give you a little context on the Unikko pattern. Armi Ratia, the founder of Marimekko, had strictly told the designers she didn ́t want to see any flowers in their patterns because natural flowers are already so beautiful and there was no point in trying to copy them for our fabrics – she thought it was not possible to capture that beauty. However, moved by a very strong inspiration, our designer Maija Issola decided to draw a floral pattern so powerful that Armi herself couldn ́t deny its authenticity and spirit. So, through that independent way of thinking she created this graphical flower from her own perception and interpretation of this natural gift. In my view, it contains a very strong attitude that gets reinforced through the graphical elements. You can immediately see there is an intense flow coming out of it, and, either you love it or you hate it, but it certainly won ́t allow you to remain impassive.

Then, I think there are some other momentous in our history as a brand that have to be mentioned, like when at the beginning we started to adapt our printed patterns to female fashion collections – mostly dresses made of cotton. Also, in the early the seventies, we printed our canvas back packs and launch them to the market, it consisted on a very basic pattern suitable both for children, students and also for women going to work. Last but not least, we have our “Tasaraita” pattern (“even stripes” in English) designed by Annika Rimala in 1968. This fabric became an icon of the equality thinking, cause both men and women could wear it on their clothing. The message it sent was that everybody was at the same level. So, it had a big impact on society… and we are really proud of it.

What can you tell us about the work atmosphere in Marimekko?

At Marimekko we usually have open and fruitful discussions related to the projects we are developing, I guess it is because we are a very flat company. So, we are working quite closely to each other, and, though of course we have at the same time built up a well-structured organization, in any case there is a lot of interaction and dialogue among employees.

How do you normally face a new collection?

We start with a “kick off meeting” in which we settle the main theme the collection is going to be based on. Then, we launch this theme to our designers and establish some kind of deadlines to see how the three lines of the collection ( fashion, interior, and bags and accessorizes) work together. Once we have decided which designers are going to be in charge of the different parts of the collection, they start to sketch inspired by the theme we have settled on at the first meetings. We try to meet with them every week – most are freelancer designers, so they don ́t have their studio at the headquarters- and agree on some guidelines for the next steps of the creative process.

Which kind of themes do you usually work with? Can you give us an example?

Our themes are usually very abstract – and quite open in any case! That way it’s easier to come up with fresh and innovative ideas. Once the designers show us their first sketches we can start the discussion to add new concepts to their proposals. For instance, the upcoming fall collection (2013) is based on how beautiful different kinds of weather are, like rainy days with their gray skies, and the emotions they make you feel…we try to reflect that on our lines. Our designers have to find out which different elements the changing weather can bring to you, how you are exposed to it or interact with it. Actually, there are many angles to look at it, sometimes the final images on the patterns are more concrete, some others the whole process gets really subjective and artistic!.

What was the main inspiration you had for the Spring Collection we can now see in your shops?

The idea behind this Spring Collection was related to colour block and colour thinking. How colours influence your everyday life. Following this idea Tuula Pöyhönen has designed her beautiful “Suprema Collection”, inspired by supremacist Russian painter Kazimir Malévich. The thing is that we have a very good taste for colors in our house. In that sense, our designers get to work so freely cause we have our own printing meal and color kitchen. Sometimes they even bring references, like a special piece of wood or a stone, and try to find the exact pigment measurements to recreate it in their patterns. Something interesting happens also within an overlapping area (when printing two colors on the same canvas’ spot) as you can appreciate, for instance, in the Unikko pattern. That way you come across colours you had never seen before.

Marimekko

As regards to your work as a Creative Director, which are your main responsibilities, how do you go through the collections and put things together?

I am always working very closely with the people responsible for the improvement of the collections. That means, the head of fashion design, the interior line manager, and the bags and accessorizes line manager. They are all in my team. Once a week we go through every detail of the collections and discuss about the new sketches and colors proposals. Then, I am also responsible for the space design at our stores.

Could you tell us about your favorite patterns?

Well, it is so difficult to say! I love almost all, plus, different compositions bring different emotions to me. But, all in all, I am more of a graphical person, and I love those really clear and geometrical shapes…tough romantic or sophisticated patterns have the ability to somehow warm my heart. If I had to choose just one, I have to say that my favorite is “Isot Kivet” – big black “stones” on a white background, created by Maija Isola in 1956. There is also a more recent reinterpretation of this pattern, the Astro (2012), made by designer Jenni Tuomisen, and I love to mix them both!. In my view, they combine perfectly together even though they are totally different, not only in the design but also in the decades they were created.

Finally, which place does Marimekko represent on the Finnish design scene?

There is no doubt that Marimekko is a strong component on the national design scene. There are two other big brands in this field, which are Artic and Iitala, and I would say that the three of us together have helped compose what we could call the Finnish aesthetic. Probably all of us have also inherited many aspects from the predominant functionalism of Finnish architecture, and this kind of strong attitude derived from Alvar Aalto’s work. We need to reflect on how people experience the interior spaces and, at the same time, how well communicated those spaces are with their natural surroundings – that defines a core part of our philosophy.

Finally, we have a very close connection with design schools in Finland and we enjoy organizing design competitions so that we can find new talents, even recent graduates! We take them on as interns and, if we consider they are ready, we give them the possibility to print their ideas and to keep on growing under our maestros guidance. That is our way of taking care of our corporate responsibility as the big brand we are in Finland.

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Interview with Finnish designer Jenni Ahtiainen

Jenni Ahtiainen belongs to the new wave of young fresh Finnish designers that keep up with the high standards and international reputation of Finnish design around the world. With the music always as inspiration, her designs have been worn by rock stars such as Ville Valo or Michael Monroe and appeared also during the last Golden Globe Gala Awards. FREE! Magazine met Jenni recently and was able to ask her a few questions about her designs, hobbies, passions and future plans:

Hello Jenni and thanks a lot for your answers beforehand! When did you discover that you had passion for design, and particularly for designing neckwear? Had you also experimented with other arts or fields in design?

My label gTIE started out accidentally. I was a boyish girl in the beginning of year 2000. I was wearing black shirt, black jeans and black 50s’ style shoes. Every day, in every occasion, every day, every night. Then in 2006 I turned 30 years and wanted to celebrate it somehow. So I got an wild idea: no trousers, but a skirt with a tie. The skirt was my statement, not the tie. The tie designed for myself was just a something boyish enough to be able to wear a skirt. Without the tie i would have looked too ouch of a girl. Those days I didn’t wear necklaces or earrings at all. After sewing this one tie, i started to think about the fact that men don’t have that much of variations in neckwear possibilities.

One night I was jogging in my home street where also lives one of the most famous stars of Finnish rock scene; Ville Valo, the vocalist on HIM. While i was running i started to think about what he would wear for a tie, if he went to a party where he is supposed to dress more formal way. My imagination brought this weird looking lace scarf in front of my eyes, and when I got back home, I made it. I sent it to him, put a not beside the scarf “I designed this for you cristmas celebration party” and the guy put it in independence day party at the presidential hall. Media saw it, wrote about it, made stories in papers about it and that’s how gTIE was born.

Before I was working as a graphic designer. I was designing book covers, web pages, logos, details for visual marketing, and now, I’m basically hanging around the same context, just that the details are around people’s necks, not in corners of posters or company web pages.

Jenni Ahtiainen

In your latest collection My name is Kenneth. What’s your problem? there is a clear influence of your favourite rock bands and artists in the designs, naming them after those ones. Is music a very important part of your life and an inspiration when designing?

My latest collection My name is kenneth, What’s you problem? collection models are named by the artist and bands I have listened and which I appreciate, but also because they have their own kind of historical style genre I find interesting. I get my inspiration from music. I do everything with music, I mean everything. I was born with music. Thanks for my dad who had loudspeakers in every god damn room at our house. It depend on the feeling I have at the moment what kind of music i need to act. If i need to focus, I usually play music without any lyrics. If I go jogging, it has to be power – even aggressive – music. I was asked to go to Iceland to keep a course for children, and the idea was to play different kind of music, different kind of genres of music to them and to see what happens in the imagination and thirdhand works. We didn’t get funding, so maybe we’ll make it happen next year.

Are there artists-bands that you would like to dedicate new designs in the future?

The models I design and make in the future are of course surrounded and surely inspired by music too, but I have no idea yet am I going to name even one more model after any musician. I follow my guts… so nothing is complete, until I get the idea in my head what the model looks like. But one thing is a fact, I feel my stuff belongs next to music. Not just because I get inspired by music and its artists, but because it feels right and natural. Performers have a right and also a kind of a obligation to dress up more visual way than ordinary people, so that’s when I step in the picture. I’m quite good in visualizing what they like, and would look good wearing without losing their credibility.

During last year, Helsinki was the World Capital of Design. What makes this small and cold country such a good place for successful designers to pop up so often?

I think finnish people are survivors. We have a lot of strength – when we really want something. We can deal the cold weather as well as bad financial circumstances.

“I do everything with music. I was born with music!”

What other young Finnish designers would you recommend to follow?

There is 2 designers I recommend on following: Outi Pyy and Mert Otsamo.

You collaborated recently with your designs in the gala of the Golden Globes Awards in USA. Could you tell us more about it? How that collaboration happened and who was wearing your models?

I went to show my designs in pre Golden Globes in January, because I was asked to. They found my label from a fashion fair 2011 and were following me through internet over one year and then contacted me. First I thought it was just junk mail, but after doing some research, I found out from two of my friends, that it wasn’t actually a joke. So I went there, got t know real people, but mainly few really important contacts. I’m going back to LA in the end of April. I’m gonna meet few actors, one producer, one director and some contacts from commercial field: I’m gonna get gTIEs women’s collection in one store and men’s collection to another store there.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? Do you assist to a lot of live music gigs around?

When I’m not working, I’m writing, and drinking some beer like some finnish people do. I go and see gigs, summertime I ride a motorcycle, sports keep my mind straight and makes me like myself more. I love singing. If I get blind, for some reason, I will be a singer.

gTIE

What can you tell us about your own label gTIE and other collaborations you have around, like for example with Matex Oy?

gTIE turns next week officially 6 years. What I do now for my living is just great. Besides designing for men and women with my own label, I design a men’s line for Matex Oy, the biggest and oldest finnish tie company. I don’t design ties there, but substitutes for ties. Basicly the same thing I do for gTIE but more mainstream way. Matex has the marketing contacts to all biggest stores in Finland, such as Stockmann and Sokos, so as a designer i don’t have to worry about selling strategies and all that “shit”, i can just design. Matex has a lot more powerful engine in their vecihle comparing to what I can do inside of my own label. They offer me a possibility for example to desing my own fabrics. In my own label I don’t have that kind of possibility, mainly ’cause of financial facts.

In the end of March, we publish a new collection for men with Matex named as White Wedding. It’s a wedding collection. And as a designer, I’m gonna make a statement with it aswell. In Finland gay people can’t get officially married, they can just register their relationship, and I think it’s stoopid: First of all it’s against the basic human rights and second, it is jurydic idiotism not to have the same law rights that hetero sexuals do automatically when they get married. So I’m gonna shoot part of the collections catalogue pictures with gay men.

Besides working as a neckwear designer, I have lot’s of product collaborations going on for example with Radio Rock (national radio station in Finland), City of Pori (my home town, they’re actually my sponsor and I’m writing a blog for them) and Porispere (rock festival in August).

I design also clothing for theatre projects, for dancers. For example Aftertaste (2012) and Kaksin käsin (free engines translation With Both Hands, 2010) were my designs. Now I’m making a short movie with modern dancers called Surface Tension. I’s coming out in Autumn. I design and style musicians, artists and bands for their videos and album cover shootings. Top finnish rock bands like HIM, Amorphis, Jari Sillanpää, Lapko and Michael Monroe have worn my designs. I also teach children and teenagers in art schools in Helsinki and Järvenpää. Mainly I do courses in arts and crafts. And all this makes me a really happy woman.

What are your next projects for this year 2013?

My projects for this year are of course making my brand break. I’ve done almost everything I can to make people know it in Finland. Now it’s time to move forward. And for some reasons many signs show me the way to LA. One of my biggest projects besides my ow label this year is doing the whole clothing design for one movie which had a funding from Hollywood. The shooting time is not clear yet, and anything can still happen with that project but if it happens, I will be even happier woman.

Anything to add for the readers?

I would like to say: Believe it, you will get it. The most important sense is intuition. You just have to learn how to hear it. And believe in it. It’s in the guts!

http://boutique.gtie.fi/

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Art Cover story Features Misc

Street art in Helsinki… and in Las Matas!

Written by Eva Blanco Medina

Street Art is finally determined to conquer the public spaces all around the world. Going from small populations that sometimes see their essence reduced to the highway exit number they represent on the map, to those cosmopolitan cities where the reinvented hipster urban culture (people riding retro-bicycles in their cool hats, checked shirts and carefully worn out jeans) seem to be melting the snow.

Las Matas

And that is how, leaving the A-6 highway at exit 24, we arrive at Las Matas – a tiny town located in the Northwest area of Madrid, Spain. The inhabitants of this quiet-to-the-boring place spend their lives surrounded by holm oaks and a never ending succession of residential neighbourhoods, a routine just altered when a new restaurant opens its doors, or when once a year, on the first of May, everybody gets extremely drunk celebrating the municipal festivity.

Las Matas

So, last Christmas, on the morning the villagers woke up to a bright rhombus-shaped sign, placed in the middle of the roundabout that gives access to the district, a mix of confusion and pleasant surprise sparkled the air. ” WELCOME TO Fabulous LAS MATAS. Little Town”. That was the readable message on the board. A creative work done by a fine arts student as a copy of the one that stands in the American Capital for gambling, Las Vegas. The funny thing is that we could play a new version of “find the seven differences” using images of both places each side of the page, but this time we would have to call it, “find the seven million differences”. And that is why the sign was so warmly adopted by the villagers. A pinch of irony accompanied the thought that Las Vegas was so, so far away, maybe not even in the same Galaxy, and, at the same time, that was such a relief.

Then, the Town Hall realized that the sign had been placed without the pertinent Administration´s permission, and thus, it was removed. But just temporarily, because people have the bad habit of fighting for the things that make them smile, and so the locals decided to use the social media tools to start a supportive campaign, so that they could keep their new (and fresh) identity symbol, and eventually, it worked!

Stop töhryille-projekti

Töhry is the Finnish word that describes a “mess” in a wall. From 1998 to 2008 the City of Helsinki developed an annually renewed initiative called the “Stop töhryille-projekti”, whose aim was to remove graffiti, stencils, stickers or any other kind of street art expression from public space. In order to assure the walls would remain clean, the City relied on private security operators such as FPS, a company founded in 1997, whose power and influence were specially reinforced over the (also known as) zero tolerance period. However, in 2003, scandals based on the aggressive strategy followed by FPS to fight what they labelled as vandalism damages, started to appear in the media. There were some testimonies from youngsters reporting how they had been beaten up or mistreated by the security agents when they got arrested for supposedly being graffiti painters.

Fifteen year old guys were hit and fined during this period“, says Kukka Ranta, a very fluent in Spanish journalist and photographer, who, together with Mikael Brunila and Eetu Viren, wrote the book “Muutaman töhryn tähden” ( an investigative work to provide an in-depth perspective on this recent decade). Then, while nibbling at a non-curved croissant, she explains that the system established for the payment of the fine added on 16% annual interest if the fee remained unpaid. “This regulation led those teenagers who had been fined to a very complex financial situation in which asking for study grants or any other kind of private loan would be no option, given that they had already contracted a large debt with the Administration”, and Kukka continues, “Isn´t that the best way of ruining somebody´s life for having done a harmless minor act?“.

Unique graffiti designs for the cover of the book

One of the inflexion points was in 2006, when somebody posted a video on Youtube that showed a man being hammered at night by a couple of FPS security agents. The scene occurred in Kontula – one of the most conflictive suburbs in Eastern Helsinki with a serious problem of alcoholism. The publication of these images, together with other initiatives such as the demonstrations organized by leftist political groups, the pressure put on the issue by independent media and online fora, and the creation ( by Kukka Ranta herself and her colleagues) of a website where critical voices surrounding the “Stop töhyille-projekti” were gathered, precipitated the end of the programme two years later, in 2008. By that time, a new discussion based on the possibility of opening public spaces for new artistic purposes, rather than strictly commercial ones, was starting to take shape within the Helsinkian society.

Multicoloured Dreams

The story of the “Multicoloured Dreams” (MCD) project starts, like many others, with a visionary idea. And the first driving force behind it was Pauliina Seppälä (journalist and sociologist) who at the beginning of Summer 2010 launched a question to a Facebook group called RHC – a refugee hospitality club Pauliina herself was coordinating- wondering if anybody would be interested in painting street art messages on construction site walls. The previous year, construction sites in Helsinki began to have plywood walls put around them, which, scrutinized by an incisor look, provided the perfect temporary canvas for a new treatment of street art, which would start being legally protected… without giving up its provocative component.

There were two people who immediately accepted Pauliina´s offer: Satu Kettunen, still one of the leaders of the MCD crew, and an Indian architect named Kavita Gonsalves who was then living in the Finnish Capital. “I must admit that it was a really happy coincidence that the three of us got together, because we were a good combination of vision, devotion, thinking outside the box, and all with hands-on attitudes. So very soon we had planned a nice project“, explains Satu when asked about the beginnings of the initiative. The first thing they did was to suggest having the project included on the official calendar for the upcoming Helsinki Design Week, and, when the organizers of the event accepted, they continued the process by asking for the City Architect´s permission. With the eagerly awaited green light, there was just one more thing to do: spread the word around the social media, so that every artist wanting to participate in the project could have the sketches prepared to be approved. Satu also considers that their modus operandi, based on the ultimate respect for the political and social authorities, helped them succeed in their approach, “The fact that we were politely asking for the permissions, and showing them the sketches before painting…the whole procedure seemed to fit here. They trusted us”.

The Kaunianen Project

After the open-call projects developed for the Helsinki area in 2010 and 2011 (both based on voluntary work, meaning no institution was financially backing up), there is one assignment that occupies a significant stage in the trajectory of MCD: a big, half-year-long, project made for the City of Kauniainen, located inside the Espoo area. Its skeleton as a whole included street art workshops for students and seniors, a painting day for kids, a couple of artworks produced by the 8 people who belonged to the coordinating team and an invitation to Otto Maija to act as a guest artist. The City commissioned all the activities, the teaching, the organization and the painting itself, and this gave regular citizens the opportunity of playing artist role for some days. Not only could they explore their hidden talents and creativity but they could also contribute to the beautification of their home town.

Applying for grants is one of the main tasks the MCD team has to face in order to assure the growth and social impact of their association. “More street art projects need to happen in Finland, that way, the financial support will also increase. That´s how the grant policy works in this country“, says Satu, always pointing out that their goal is far from creating a profitable business. In the same sense, Veera Jalava, a younger -but equally attractive- version of the actress Anna Torv (Fringe), and another member of the MCD organisational team, remembers that “the original philosophy of the initiative relied on voluntary work. It wasn´t thought of to earn a living out of it, but to make the city more alive. To give wider possibilities to everyone to do street art“.

Mural by Antti Mannyvali

Antti Mannynvali agrees to this non-profitable perspective. The artist, who has contributed with his talent to one of the MCD projects in the centre of Helsinki, considers that voluntarism is a core issue, “for me, this is something that is aimed at those who just want to produce visible art. The motivation for doing this is not money. But even then, since the visibility provided here is hard to reach otherwise, that could culminate in other gigs which might involve getting paid“. Then, when asked about the relationship between the city and the possibilities for street art, he claims, “A large part of public space could be open to artistic expressions. It is something that interests and motivates young people to be creative, and I think society should try to encourage them in a positive way. For a long time they spent humongous efforts trying to marginalize those youngsters and force them into becoming hard criminals. I can’t understand that approach.”

Finally, the Multicoloured Dreams project has also been the target for some criticism from the so-called purist sector, those grafters who claim the nature of street art to be illegal, and asking for permissions and handing in sketches to be approved is far from its essence. However, Satu makes herself very clear regarding this point, “I don´t think we are taking anything away from the illegal painters. We haven’t had many old school graffiti artists taking part in our projects, but they are also very welcome. I believe that people need the possibility to make a difference to their surroundings, to leave a mark…to take the city streets for themselves away from the commercial companies“.

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Albums Features Misc Music

Competition!!! Get for FREE! one CD from the Finnish metal band 2 Wolves!!!

FREE! Magazine gives away 2 copies of the latest album from Finnish metal band 2 Wolves: “Men of Honour“.

Men of Honour

If you want to be one of the lucky winners, it is just as easy as sending the right answer to our editor antonio.diaz(at)freemagazine.fi, writing in the subject of the email “2 Wolves Competition”. Good luck and horns up!

The name of the band is “2 Wolves”. What was the biggest influence on Aleksi Susi when he was thinking how to name his group?

A. An old Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves
B. His last name (Susi means wolf in english)
C. He has own wolf that lives in his house
D. Continuous dreams of protective wolves

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Articles Misc

Finnish Ambassador Nominated for Exporting Finnish Theatre

Pekka Huhtaniemi, the Finnish Ambassador to the UK, has been nominated for the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Awards for his efforts to export Finnish theatre to the UK. Ambassador Huhtaniemi helped to set up the From-Start-to-Finnish campaign in April 2012. The campaign enables Finnish theatre to gain more exposure to British audiences.

The Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Awards will be celebrating the achievements of politicians, like Pekka Huhtaniemi, who have made a positive impact on society. Grassroot Diplomat, a diplomatic consultancy, aims to bridge the gap between diplomats, politicians and the public. By enabling civil society better communications with high-profile diplomats and politicians, Grassroot Diplomat ensures that an effective and engaging relationship between society, politicians and diplomats is maintained.

Pekka Huhtaniemi

From-Start-to-Finnish is a theatrical exchange programme between the UK based Pleasance Theatre and ACE production in Finland. From-Start-to-Finnish aims to expose UK audiences to Finnish theatre and export British theatre to Finnish audiences. Ambassador Huhtaniemi has stated that the purpose of the From-Start-to-Finnish campaign is to build stronger ties between Finnish and British theatre, and to create a lasting union between Finnish and British theatre.

The campaign has so far been successful in spreading Finnish theatre in the UK. In April 2012 the Ryhmäteatteri independent theatre group performed their adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat. In August 2012 the Edinburgh Fringe Festival also held a showcase of Finnish theatre; another showcase of Finnish theatre will be performed during the 2013 Festival. Nominated under the Social Driver category for the awards, Ambassador Huhtaniemi shows that he is passionate about forging new relationships between the two nations.

Over 50 high-level government officials have been nominated for the Initiative Awards. Join Pekka Huhtaniemi and other government nominees at the Vincent Rooms, Westminster with an evening performance led by Euro-Vision Song Contest artist, Imaani. For ticket information, please visit: www.grassrootdiplomat.org/awards. Early Bird Ticket sale ends November 2012.

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Articles Misc

Qatar continues to invest in Luxembourg

In spite of the announced departure of Qatar Airways from the Cargolux capital, Qatar continues to invest in Luxembourg. Investors from the emirates are currently having discussions to buy the Luxembourgish real estate website www.immotop.lu and to evolve it towards a European platform www.immotop.eu

IMMOTOP.LU launched in early October the european real estate website IMMOTOP.EU – All-in-One solution for the real estate agencies and companies across Europe. Qatari investors have seen this interface as a real opportunity to access the European market of real estate. According to Benjamin de Seille, consultant of GBN who worked on the conclusion of the deal, this aspect will allow buyers to have more pieces of information at disposal for the investments in the real estate of the Old Continent.

Inmotop

A large family from Qatar, who is not related to the royal family but known locally, expressed interest in the project of European expansion of Immotop. The family of investors, who do not wish to disclose their name at the moment, is specialized in industry, real estate and IT (information technology). They said they were also ready to inject capital for the promotion of the website www.immotop.eu

“The group found in IMMOTOP.EU the possibility of having access to the European market of real estate, combining aspects of IT operations and real estate,” says Benjamin de Seille.

This acquisition would also allow the company not only to strengthen its position in regards to its competitor, the Luxembourgish atHome (REA group), but also would provide more opportunities to develop its services throughout Europe.

www.immotop.eu

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L-1470 Luxembourg

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Cover story Misc

The New Chapel of Silence in Helsinki

Text and photos by Eva Blanco

Everybody would agree that if there are issues to complain about in Helsinki, noise would certainly not come at the top of the list. The Finnish Capital is inhabited by over six hundred thousand people – much larger than any other city in the country…but they like to play it quiet. No shouting on the streets unless you are actively taking part in the Saturday night fever. No hell melodies performed by friendly drivers who love honking their horns. And, in case you didn´t realize, stress is nowhere to be seen. So why? Why the need for building a space to honour silence and inner peace right in the heart of the town when such a calm atmosphere is already available? Maybe just because quietness is as addictive as chocolate, you could always do with a little bit more.

Chapel of Silence

Located in a corner of the Narinkkatori square, where, thanks to the persistent direct marketing campaigns, you can usually get a snack for free, with its wooden surface mysteriously gleaming even on rainy days, the Chapel of Silence (also known as Kamppi Chapel) is intended to be both a place for personal reflection and a platform of social commitment. A dual personality easily recognizable starting with the architectonic design – before getting to enter into the chapel you have to cross a small foyer where round tables have been set up for small-scale gatherings and one to one conversations in which God doesn´t need to show up unless he is specifically required to. Forgetting about all kind of ornamentation, this solid oval-shaped structure is raised up from the ground as an interpretation of a modern wooden church which has deep roots in tradition.

It was the former Helsinki’s Deputy Mayor Pekka Korpinen who, after travelling around Italy and witnessing its variety of sacral spaces for momentary withdrawal, came up with the idea of transferring the concept to the Baltic city. That is how the initiative started to take off in 2008 when the architects from K2S studio, Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola and Mikko Summanen, were chosen to design the Chapel, but it wasn´t until May of this year when it was finally opened to the public as part of the World Design Capital program. Counting on extensive background from the construction of public buildings, such as a hospital in the city of Espoo or an IT-college in the town of Sipoo, Summanen (head designer) still thinks that this project holds incomparable value: “Kamppi Chapel is an island of peace and spirit within the commercial flux. It is an architectonic interpretation of gentler human values deliberately contrasting with it’s surroundings. The possibility to build this unique piece in the centre of Helsinki was naturally a once in a lifetime experience“.

Chapel of Silence

Then, when asked about the most meaningful stages of the process, the architect explains: “It was very important for us to discuss the spirit of the place. The feeling of the material and form as well as the changing natural light are the essential components that define the atmosphere of the chapel space itself. Our aim was to create “human scale monumetalism” in the interior – where although the dimensions are small there is still a verticality that elevates the space“. Precisely this condition of verticality, that Mikko tries to empathize, is one of the main factors that contributes to overwhelm the almost two million visitors who have stepped into the Chapel so far. Coming from Finland and smiling openly to everybody as if that was the most natural thing to do in this country, Mary, a slim middle-aged woman, forgets about technical terms and puts it in her own words…”It feels like an illusion“.

The power structures within the Chapel are also a defining element. The building is operated, on a partnership basis, between the Helsinki parish union and the Social Services Department of the city. A total of twelve employees (six related to each institution) were hired to work together looking after the place and making themselves available for personal discussions. “Cities and churches have worked side by side all around Finland, but not this way. Not so close, in the same room. Not with a shared goal and organization”, says Tarja Jalli, manager of the Chapel, and then he goes further analysing this collaborative initiative: “We have found a nice synergy together. Our palette of services is now twice as big as it used to be, which means that people can get much more help at the same time“.

Workers of the Chapel of Silence

This opinion is also shared by Pekka Uula, one of the employees who shows the genuine appearance of a rock band guitarist and talks with enthusiasm about the project. “So far it´s working great!”, he claims, and later on he summarizes the whole philosophy of this original association: “There are people that may not feel comfortable talking to a priest. That is why we also need to offer a non-confessional option…I would say that even if it is a Lutheran chapel, it is not religious in a way“. Reaching out to everybody is a key issue to complete successful work. In the end, if you suffer from loneliness, illness or because you are going through a tough family situation- the three main reasons that make people search for comfort in this place- the last thing you should care about is if you have enough faith to be welcomed to talk about it. That is where the peculiarity of the Chapel lies. Well, and maybe also to a certain extent on its active social network profile. So far it has accumulated more than one hundred tweets – basically memorable quotes- and over nine hundred “likes” in Facebook.

On the other hand, arranging a personal communion at the Chapel is possible if you ask the priest beforehand. The priest, being a blond haired, blue eyed, kind woman named Nanna Helaakosici. She explains that church services such as baptism or wedding ceremonies, with the exception of the one that will be celebrated the twelfth of December (12/12/12), are not held in here. Nanna remarks that the building is not supposed to be reserved for private use. However, included on the weekly schedule we can find regular moments of prayer that may be accompanied by background music.

The rest of the time this place belongs to you. To all of us. And here lies the problem. At the “Chapel of Silence” silence itself is still an intermittent guest. It can honour the visitors with its presence for a maximum of five minutes, but then suddenly just when you are starting to feel adapted to the peaceful environment that keeps you safe from the hustle and bustle of the city, the door is opened again and a group of tourists are marched in!.

Pekka Uula

In a few seconds whispers spread all around the wooden structure, in fact, there are cases of people that forget to switch off their mobile phone and then quickly try to do so when their partners are ringing just to check if they have bought some coffee. How to keep silence for a longer time is still an issue that needs to be figured out. Although we will just probably have to wait until the excitement about the building is over before we see that happening. Despite that, the Chapel is destined to become one of the most iconic places in Helsinki. An inspiring shelter where life stops for a little while so that you can sort out your thoughts and regain your strength – with or without God.

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Articles Misc Outside Finland Travel

Kuressaare, An Island Full of Miracles

Written by Elena Paraschiv

Estonia is the country that lies on the eastern shores of Baltic Sea. So over the years, the Estonian culture was influenced by the adjacent areas, such as Finnic, Baltic, Slavic, Germanic peoples, but also from Sweden and Russia who have brought major contributions to cultural development of Estonia. Looking through the geographical location, and the influences received for decades, many Estonians consider themselves a Nordic people rather than Baltic, and they also have arguments to support that choice, such as Estonian language is similar to Finnish language and the Estonians as a ethnic group are a Finnic one. Even Swedish Ambassador Mr. Dag Hartelius who gave a speech on Estonian Independence day, on February 24, 2009 considered Estonia “A Nordic Country”. In terms of music, Saxo Grammaticus, the famous Danish historian,(the author of first full history of Denmark, known also as Saxo cognomine Longus), talks in his book “Gesta Danorum”, about the Estonian warriors who were spending the nights singing while they were waiting for the battle. Same warriors who were also known under the name of Eastern Vikings (Estonian pirates).

Kuressaare

Saaremaa, the largest island of Estonia, it was the home of notorious Estonian pirates. “The Livonian Chronicle of Henry”(a document describing historic events in Livonia, today`s inland Estonia, north of Latvia and surrounding areas from 1180 to 1227) talks about a fleet of 16 ships and 500 Osilians ravaging the area that now is southern Sweden, then belonging to Denmark. The island name`s means “isle`s land”. In old Scandinavian sagas, Saaremaa is called “Eysysla” and in Icelandic sagas “Eysýsla”. Saaremaa forms the main barrier between the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea. To the south of it is the main passage out of the gulf, the Irbe Strait, next to Sõrve Peninsula, the southernmost portion of the island. In Medieval times islanders were crossing the strait to form fishing villages on Livonian coast, in particular Pitrags village. The capital of Saaremaa is Kuressaare.

Kuressaare is situated on the coast of of Gulf of Riga and its first name was Arensburg. The names was changed in 1918(after Estonia has declared its independence from Bolshevist Russia) in Kuressaare. It first appeared on maps around 1154. The town breathes history in every way possible. In Kuressaare was born the famous romantic painter Eugen Dücker (1841–1916) who was the teacher of a great Norwegian landscape painter Adelsteen Normann, (who studied with Dücker from 1869 to 1872). In Saaremma, the visitors can also find Kaali, a small group of meteorite craters, from which they started many legends, all collected by Lennart Meri in his book “Hõbevalge”. The largest of the craters measures 110 metres in diameter and contains a small lake known as “Kaali järv” (Lake Kaali). Kuressaare is also the host of Saaremaa Opera Days, that takes place in the medieval Episcopal Castle of Kuressaare, this year during 16th and 22nd of July. The first documentation about the castle has been found in Latin texts written in 1381 and 1422. Today, the castle houses the Saaremaa Regional Museum, besides the festival. Some sources say that the castle was built in wood between 1338 and 1380, although others claim a fortress was built in Kuressaare in early 1260.

Saaremaa Opera Festival is the first opera festival in Estonia and it was held for the first time in 1999. During the years, the festival became one of the major opera festivals from Europe, having more than 1,000 people coming from near and far to enjoy the extraordinary music. Festival owes its existence to Ludmilla Toon, a music teacher and choir conductor. This year`s edition will be a true spectacle of beautiful voices and world-class singers. The schedule includes Monica Groop (a Finnish operatic mezzo-soprano who made her operatic debut in 1987 at the Finnish National Opera; she has sung leading roles as a guest artist with important theatres such as: the Los Angeles Opera, the Palais Garnier, the Royal Opera London and many others), Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky’s “Borris Godunov” performed by one of the most famous and interesting theatres in the world, Moscow Helikon-Opera (the artistic diresctor and founder of the theatre Dimitri Bertman has already staged more than 90 performances in Russia, and abroad, including Spain, Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zeeland and Denamark), Koit Soasepp (Estonia/Finland), “The Barber of Seville” and “Rasputin”(Moscow Helikon-Opera), Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti’s “Maria Sturda” performes by Vanemuine Theatre and many other surprises.

Kuressaare

During the festival, Kuressaare is no longer a simple town, it becomes a dream.This is exactly is the feeling you will experience. Each spectacle is unique in style, performance, emotion and energy, and everything takes place in a wonderful setting that we find it only in fairy tales. In a corner of paradise left in a world that has forgotten to dream. During the festival the world stops, the nature takes a break from development, all the windmills on the island are participating in the festival and capturing people’s emotions and feelings, all under a divine sign, turn the island into a fairy festival. While listening to the music, you can see the leaves crying beauty and the sun going dawn kissing the sea spreading an explosion of orange light that make you feel like the sky is burning.

There is something even more beautiful on this island if God: the old and unwavering lighthouse. The majestic lighthouse that guards the island and that`s waiting for you at the end of a sandy path that separates the sea in two. While you`re heading to the lighthouse you`ll hear the waves breaking at your feet slightly shy. The small beach and the sea breeze fill the landscape with the bluest sky you`ve ever saw. And when you finally get there, you`ll see it. The eternal unlit candle designed to ensure the island forever.

You will be surprised by the emotion and the beautiful peace caused by the inside and the outside together. Everything is a dream waiting for a miracle.

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Articles Misc

Strong Finnish Women

Article written by Sasha Raduntceva

“The perfect woman’s task is to be a mother, and a lover, and a warrior. Then we can say that a Princess became a Queen” – Bernard Werber wrote in his book “The Empire of the Angels.” And it is hard to disagree with it. Especially when we have the obvious case – the life of legendary women.

First of all, probably the best-known Finn-woman of all the times is Tove Jansson, the creator of the cutest creatures – The Moomins. The world fame has come to Tove after the publishing of the first part of Moomin’s epopee. She has drawn also the pictures and has adopted the novels into the theatre plays. But the fact is that Tove herself has always told that first of all she is an artist, and hasn’t taken her literary activity seriously. Among the works of Jansson as an artist best known are: The canteen at the Strömberg factory at Pitäjänmäki, Helsinki, The Aurora Children’s Hospital in Helsinki, The Kaupunginkellari restaurant of Helsinki Town Hall and so on. Also she has made the absolutely adorable comics about Moomin for American newspaper “Evening News” published by powerful Associated Press. Originally Jansson has personally drawn each page of comics, but soon she got bored with this job and she gave it to her brother, Lars.

Armi Kuusela

And that wasn’t a great surprise – Tove and her brothers (Per Olov and Lars) grew up with dad-sculptor Viktor Jansson and mum-graphic designer Signe Hammarsten-Jansson. But Tove had a twofold sense for the fallen on her popularity. On the one hand, she irritated the excessive commercialization of her work, on the other hand, that was a huge income from all kinds of products with a Moomin theme allowed her to rent and then buy Klovharu-island in the Gulf of Finland, where she was able to hide from journalists and fans. All in all the copyrights for Tove’s novels belong now to Lars’s daughter Sofia, because unfortunately she had no children. When Tove died, that was a national mourning day, while her contribution to Finnish literature and art is truly inestimable.

On the other side of The Finnish National Theatre, in Kaisaniemi Park, there is a monument. That is an original abstract sculpture represented the Curtain. That is dedicated to another great example of, speaking like Beyonce, “single lady”, Finnish actress Ida Aalberg. When she was first 23 years old, Ida has already performed not only in native country, but also in Hungary, Germany and Russia, and a little bit later she has got her winner-ticket – the role of Nora in the good-known play “Doll House” by Henrik Johan Ibsen. Since then Ida was gradually strengthened over the status of the national treasure. A lot of actors say that the role of their dream is Hamlet. Well, Ida, in some respect, was one of the luckiest – she was Ophelia, the lover of Hamlet. After the death of her first husband, Ida married Alexander Johann Uexküll-Gyllenband and moved to Russian Empire. Had she fears to go to the foreign country? Maybe, but there Ida had anyway a good career. But in 1906, after the death of Kaarli Bergbom, she has taken the lead in the Finnish National Theatre. The art of Aalberg, one of the best Finnish actresses, distinguished by great dramatic force. She has created images of love and suffering, of a women with deep feelings, integrity and passion.

On June 17 1952 in Long Beach, California the first Miss Universe contest has taken place. There were thirty contestants participated and one of them – 17-old Armi Kuusela from Finland. And exactly she has taken a crown.

Tove Jansson

Of course that was incredible, deafening success. When she was back to home country, it was immediately decided to create a movie dedicated to Armi – Maailman kaunein tyttö (World’s most beautiful girl), where she played herself. Afterwards Armi has chosen the way of actress. She was starring also in musicals with her husband, Filipino businessman, Virgilio Hilario, whom she had met during her first journey round the world.

Of course nowadays is Armi one of the examples of “how to be a great Woman”, but that wouldn’t be full without knowing that she had 5 children. And no one of those daughters and sons live in the same country now: Arne Hilario (lives in Chile), Anna-Lisa De Gari (lives in Spain), Jussi Hilario (lives in Canada), Eva-Maria Hess (lives in United States) and Mikko Hilario (lives in the Philippines).

No matter that people say that politics isn’t ladies business, still there are instances of such women. For example, Finnish president Tarja Halonen. In her youth Tarja has radical leftist views, she took also part in the pacifist movement, was a fan of Che Guevara. Tarja has even left the Lutheran church after women were denied ordination. In 1980-1981 she was a chairman of SETA (Fin. Seksuaalinen Tasavertaisuus ry -”Sexual Equality”), an organization that protects the rights of sexual minorities.

Of course that’s possible to talk about this great woman never-ending, but still there was a specific US-joke – on of the American talk show hosts Conan O’Brien compares to Tarja a lot. After joking about this for several months, he travelled to Finland, where appeared on TV and met President herself.

And now let’s move to the hero of our days. It seems that a lot of people know exactly who Leena Peisa is. Well she is one of the member of freaky band “Lordi” that had won Eurovision song contest in 2006. Actually in “Lordi” she has a specific nickname – Awa that means “Be Aware”. Also she takes on the persona of an unearthly Vampire Countess in her “home band”. Of course there was a real hysteria around how all the members look in there normal life. But still no one knows (probably only the nearest and dearest). But anyway there was a precedent, when Daily Mail credited a photo of a woman (without make-up) as being Awa. But she disclaim that information.

Despite the small size of Finland, almost anyone can become a “dream woman” in this country. What is that – the legendary Nordic hardening or Protestant morality? Answer is difficult, but thanks to the Finnish emancipation (in the best sense of the word), ladies have taken the leading position in the world.

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Drama Reloaded: Yerma. Interview with director Katariina Numminen

The Baltic Circle Theatre Festival brought to the Finnish capital a wide array of perfomances, Finnish and international, for all tastes.

One highlight was the introduction of Drama Reloaded: Yerma, a work that revisits the classic play by Spanish writer Federico García Lorca confronting the themes of drama and reality while in the perfomances were added comments from interviews with 12 people childless for different reasons.

The director of the play, the Finnish Katariina Numminen, kindly answered the questions of FREE! Magazine to explain more about this and some other of her current and future projects.

Drama Reloaded: Yerma

Hello Katariina and thanks for answering our questions. From where came the idea to adapt and revisit the classic “Yerma”? Were you very familiar with the original Lorca´s work?

I was impressed how very modern Yerma was, what it comes to characters emotions, and to their relationships with each others. I read the play years ago, and I went back to it now, when I wanted to this project about infertility etc. I have of course read Lorca’s work before, but this was the first time I directed his work to the stage.

“Yerma” dates back to 1934, a period in Spain when it was quite common that the roles of wife and husband were defined, with the man working and the woman as housekeeper. Do you think that it continues being a modern topic, even when young couples nowadays usually both work and often they do not even have time for raising or having children, though being fertile?

As I said at some point during the reherseals: I find that Lorca’s spanish village with all the strict rules and demands and honour and such, is not that different from the demands and set of expectations and rules each one of us carries in our heads. So, Lorca’s wiew is not valid what it comes to society, but somehow, strangely, it is very true psychologically. We tend to have terrible demands for ourselves.

In Drama Reloaded: Yerma, the drama basically faces reality and gets analyzed and dissected while taking place. But does the art do not lose in a way the “magic” touch to play with the mind and imagination of the audience when you confront it with reality?

Only if one is looking for an illusion sort of art, a coherent fiction to which to dive and escape from reality. I think fiction and reality do tend to “contaminate” each other on stage. Both change when contrasted. But this is exactly what I find interesting.

Disco Coconut

During an act of the play, I noticed that the actors basically represented the original text of Lorca in Spanish language. Was very challenging for them to learn the lines? Did they have previous knowledge of Spanish language? Why you decided to mix Finnish and Spanish languages in the play?

No, they are not Spanish speakers, so it was hard work for them to learn the lines. But we had a wonderful Spanish coach, who read the lines with us. I wanted to have a scene in Spanish, in a language strange to most of audience and to the actors, because I found that a crisis or a emotional shock can bring us to as state in which we don’t anymore know the language, the words we are speaking ourselves.

If I am not mistaken, you also had a project in Kiasma that is closing just this week, called “Coconut Disco”. What can you tell us about it?

Coconut Disco – Afrikan ääniä was shown last spring as a part of Ars 11 exhibition. It was a live radio play and live performance at the same time. Collaborating with me were musician Rodrigues Jose and sound desingner Kimmo Modig. It was about sounds. A try-out to make space African sounds and voices. The question was: do two people ever hear or see the world the same way.

You collaborate with the Vyborg Artistic Theatre in Russia. Do you spend long periods abroad, or do you live all the time in between Helsinki and Vyborg?

I live in Helsinki.Viipurin taiteellinen teatteri is a project which started in 2002, as a project where we, 6 Finnish Artists, disguised as Russian Viborg Artistic Theatre and made a performance called The Dybbuk. So we acted Russian actors acting that performance. We have made 5 performances since that.
We have a premiere coming, “Viipurin taiteellisen teatterin viimeinen esitys” (Vyborg Artistic Theatre: Last Performance) in Teatteri Takomo in Helsinki this New year’s Eve, and performances during January 2012.

What future plans do you have for the next months? Will Drama Reloaded: Yerma be played around in other theatres in Finland?

Drama Reloaded: Yerma is perhaps having more performances next March.

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Articles Misc

Sexhibition: Helsinki´s sex party

Autumm is here. Helsinki is dark, getting colder and colder every day and people start to feel moody and cranky because they know that they will have to wait for a long time until spring is back. The summer parties and casual romances are over… So what to do? Easy, to assist to Sexhibition to feed the erotic flame that the citizens of the Finnish capital have deep (or not so deep) inside.

Sexhibition, the Helsinki Erotic Festival, is organized twice a year in Jäähalli, very near the city centre. For 2 days the assistants can enjoy top performers from all over the world, do shopping and assist to spontaneous displays of affection on the upper stage where the amateurs play an important role.

Sexhibition

Actually, if you have never assisted to Sexhibition and you are expecting the venue to be full of old pervs hungry to take a look at some naked flesh, the reality is far from it. I had assisted for last time in 2007 while researching for material for a big cover story about sex business in Finland, so it was refreshing to be back there. The audience is mostly quite young, groups of boys and girls (many of them dressed in quite sexy outfits) who are warming up drinking, looking at the shows, shopping and having a good fun for continuing later the party in some nightclub or at the after party of the festival that was taking place at Millionaire´s Club. There were also many young couples who enjoy the exhibition together.

What I noticed is that maybe the tone of the festival in general is a bit more “softcore” than in previous years, and it is indeed greatly aimed at attracting a female audience, with more performers to delight the ladies like Satisfaction Show and Julio Gonzalez. Not so much explicit sex on the main stage, but more “artistic” perfomances. The queen of the current edition was undoubtedly Tali De ´Mar. You can notice her experience on stage, how comfortable she feels and how she connects with the audience with her erotic-burlesque show.

Charlie Sheen doll

If one can put a “but”, is that most of the shows turn to be quite short, lasting only a few minutes. Also the peep show cabins were a bit dissappointing, paying 2e for just a few seconds of a show, although if you follow the yellow press, you have an extra motivation to hang around to see Saana Parviainen working as a host there (her husband Jussi Parviainen was also present there, I wonder if he wanted to take a closer look at her to check if she would perform live sex with Mr. Lothat on stage or not, like it happened in the previous edition of the festival…).

For making up the pauses between shows, once again the female audience has the better part of the cake when wandering around, with many products on sale for them: lingerie, outfits, all kind of sex toys like an amazing array of dildos, vibrators, etc. No wonder that around 50% of the assistants were women, a number that is probably much more higher than in other Erotic Festivals around Europe, like for example the ones held in my native country Spain.

But also the male audience had many possibilities for doing some good shopping around: quality leather belts for just 10 euro, 2 pack of nice boxers also for 10e, leather jackets with great discounts… Clothes, sex toys and complements to fullfill everybody´s requirements!

Sexhibition

If you wanted some more explicit action, at the upper floor there was another small stage where Finnish professional stripper and porn actor Mr. Lothar was hosting the show. There amateurs were welcome to show their erotic and sexual skills to the masses, although in the end it was Mr. Lothar who was stealing the show; One has to recognize that he is a charismatic showman, able to perform live sex in front of hundreds of eyes while cracking jokes, and always followed by a good haren of sexy female fans and collaborators. Among the activities shown there, you could see the semi-finals for the Finnish National Championship of giving blowjobs and licking pussy. I wonder why they never write about those competitions at the tourist office when they comment others in Finland like throwing mobile phones or carrying wives…

All in all, Sexhibition is quite a fun event to visit with friends, a couple, or of course alone if you have the curiosity to see what is going on there. The next edition will change location, being organized at Kaapelitehdas in 2012, so let´s see how the change of the venue affects the general atmosphere of the event. Meanwhile folks, make love, not war!

Photos: Saara Suominen