Expert Ease: Meet Finland’s Most Exciting Young Ceramicist

Ask Laura Itkonen what kind of artist she is, and the Finnish creative will be answering for a while: A designer of retail displays. A photographer and graphic artist. A jewelry maker. Tableware designer. Sculptor and ceramicist. It’s the latter category, however, where Itkonen has received the most acclaim; this fall, she and three other talents will be recognized as Finland’s most exciting young designers at Habitare, the annual interior design and furniture fair in Helsinki.

Itkonen’s creativity has evolved since earning her master’s in applied arts from the Aalto University School of Art in 2010. She started in visual design for a Finnish fashion retailer, and then began exploring ceramics with a series of wall tiles that can be hung as art – the first products to come from the studio she opened in 2016. Her latest works, the multimedia Sculptural Series, is a collection of lidded porcelain cups with handles made from rough earthenware, cylinders of marbleized clay and tubes of metal with pearl-like clay accents.

“The knobs are the result of my current inspiration. Sometimes it’s a form in my head or sometimes it can be inspired by the material used,” she notes, like the free-form earthenware: “It’s a traditional Finnish wild clay, excavated straight from the ground of Somero, 100 kilometers from Helsinki. The contrast with the smooth porcelain is staggering.”

Though Itkonen’s work is functional, utilization isn’t necessarily the goal, she says, adding, “I want to show that the value of an object is not only in its use but also in the form, material, colors and their combined beauty.”

She makes her own clays and glazes using local raw materials. “The place between art and design feels very natural to me. Producing only functional tableware wouldn’t be enough for me as a designer and artist. I want to express my own style in my products and stand out from the world of mass production. What fascinates me the most about clay is that it always has some shape or form. It’s never a blank canvas.”

And she loves mixing clay with other elements and methods. Next up is a project that involves 3-D printing, which she’ll present at Habitare in September, and a collaboration with another artist that uses Finnish stones. Itkonen is currently in discussions with an (unnamed) American boutique to carry her wares, but for now, we’ll have to fly to Helsinki to see them up close.

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