To this day, Marimekko produces fabrics for the international market. Unikko, the large poppies, is the best-known pattern. © Leena Stiina Kilpeläinen

Many people are familiar with the large-scale floral patterns, the play with geometric shapes and many other colourful fabric designs of the Finnish company Marimekko. The Finnish artist Maija Isola (1927 to 2001) worked as a designer for Marimekko for almost 40 years and contributed significantly to its international success with the more than 500 designs she created for the company. For many, Maija Isola is Marimekko.

A documentary on Arte now not only traces Isola’s eventful life and goes in search of the places and experiences that inspired her. It also shows her drive for maximum artistic freedom, which did not always keep the relationship between her and Marimekko unclouded. Maija Isola studied painting at the Helsinki School of Art and Design. After graduating in 1949, she became chief designer of the Finnish textile company Printex. From 1951, her designs were also produced by their sister company Marimekko, which had been founded to transfer the textile manufacturer’s designs into fashion and interior design. Maija Isola married several times and lived in Finland, Paris and Algeria. Marimekko and its boss Armi Ratia, on the other hand, wanted to bind her more closely and exert control over her.

Maija Isola’s most famous design is the Unikko pattern, the poppies. It was created in 1964, although Armi Ratia publicly announced that there would be no flowery fabrics at Marimekko. In protest, Maija Isola designed a complete collection with various colourful floral patterns. Today, her timeless designs are reissued annually in a variety of different versions and printed on fabrics, porcelain, paper and accessories. The documentary, says the announcement, “shows the extraordinary life of this artist who never wanted to be in the limelight. She was inspired by places and landscapes she encountered on her travels, by the social events of the time and by her love of nature.” The 26-minute film, in which Isola’s daughter Kristina, who herself worked for Marimekko, also provides an insight into the family archive, will be broadcast on Arte on Sunday, 14 November 2021 at 12.25 pm. The documentary will be available online in the media library from 7 November 2021 to 11 February 2022.

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