Into the Wild with Teemu Järvi

Mr. Wolf makes a trek to the wilderness, to sit down with Finnish designer and illustrator, Teemu Järvi.

Where did you start your creative career?
I began with traditional studies at the Free Art School in Helsinki. I then went on to the University of Art & Design, where I completed a Master of Arts in Spatial and Furniture Design. Since completing my studies, my main profession has been as a product and spatial designer. However, I have also been illustrating regularly for Matsästys & Kalastus Magazine.
Some of my earlier design projects include the flat-pack cardboard products at Järvi & Ruoho and the stackable Vera chair, which Wallpaper magazine named “the most beautiful chair of the year”.

What do you like about the medium of illustration?
Illustration has mainly been my way of combining my strong love of nature and outdoor living with my passion for freehand drawing. It is a good counterweight to the accuracy of architectural drawing and long-term research and design projects.
I actually quit making illustrations for almost two years in 2005 because I felt that I needed to focus on something different – my design work. But almost immediately I began to yearn for freehand drawing. So I started to draw live models twice a week, just for fun. After two years of that, I decided I wanted to continue with my illustration work.

Why the itch to return to drawing?
At the time, I was starting to get fed up with the superficiality of the design scene. I struggled more and more with the dilemma of whether new consumer goods were really necessary, especially considering the burden on the environment.
After being awarded an artistic grant from the Finnish Cultural Council in 2012, I decided to spend three months at my wilderness cottage in eastern Lapland, near the Russian border. The hut it located 75 kilometers north of Savukoski, and the wilderness starts from the stairs of the porch. Perfect for me, a dream come true!
This was where I produced the first edition of lithograph prints and product images.

What do you find inspiring about nature?
Outdoor living has always been vital for me. Since childhood I have spent most of my leisure time in the wild; hiking in the mountains, roaming or game-hunting in the woods, or sneaking up small streams to go fly-fishing. When I’m stressed or troubled I always go there and immediately it wears off. It’s like therapy for me.
I have always felt that being in nature, to fish or hunt, is something that I don’t need to question. It is just natural. It feels good in my guts, and it is something that mankind has done for most of its existence, especially in Finland where urban life is a relatively new phenomenon.
I don’t mean that everything was better in the past, not at all. I love to dance to Daft Punk, I love modern art and technology, and many other ‘new’ things, but we shouldn’t forget that we are just a piece of shit in the whole scale of the earth and the universe. Visiting nature regularly helps us to remember that.

What other things in life inspire you?
I’m an aesthetician; I love beautiful things. I also draw from Finnish folklore, traditions and art in general. Some artists that continue to inspire me are Don Van Vlient, Wong Kar-Wai and Pierre Bonnard.

You use some methods in your art that some might say are a little non-traditional in Finland. Can you share a little about that?
I have tried many different mediums and Chinese ink and reed pens just felt right to me. I love the spontaneity and unpredictability of Chinese ink drawing. Above all I’m interested in capturing a sense of movement, light and shade. I love to see the rawness and sensitivity of wildlife come through in my drawings.

What are you trying to communicate through your art?
I believe that the intense urban life rhythm, the information explosion, and the pressure of work makes people yearn for soul-food. People are searching for something that bounds them to the traditions of nature. If I can be that link for people, I am more than happy!

Teemu is currently working on two solo exhibitions for 2014. For more of Teemu's work, visit:

Words: Annie Ferguson