Marit Ilison. 7SILVERMENINCOATS

What principles do you follow when choosing the creative personalities and labels that you work with?

Various earlier cooperative projects have brought us into contact, as well as my work with design organizations in different countries, and my travels and visits to design festivals. Along the way, a vast network has formed, full of fantastically creative personalities. However, I choose the people I work with based on my intuition. I evaluate their character – sometimes, they may have something absolutely fabulous to offer, but I sense that the person is just not ready for cooperation – he/she is not ready to be part of a creative group.

In fact, many designers have achieved a creative upswing right after ÖÖ: events, at which they found new and promising contacts.

KO! Lightning pillows. Photo:  Andris Feldmanis

Many of the people that I currently work with have been a part of ÖÖ: since the beginning, such as the Estonian textile designer and researcher Kärt Ojavee (KO!), who works with so-called “smart textiles” and creates new hybrid materials. Her three different pillow models virtually come alive with light and sound effects. Thorunn Arnadottir, a product designer from Iceland, was also part of ÖÖ: from the start; now she is well-known in New York and elsewhere in the world. Thorunn Arnadottir has been showing in V&A and her graduation project QR U? was used by the whole London Design Festival team last year. [Learn more about all of ÖÖ:'s artists here – A.Č.]

The events that you organize focus on various fields of design. Are you also interested in, for instance, process design?

I'm interested in everything that deals with design. I have a good background in fashion design, but I feel that fashion, by itself, is a very narrow field. I want to break down all of the walls that make representatives of various creative fields work just in their own, strictly delineated zones; I want to bring them all together and have them become aware of the whole, wide territory of design that is out there.

Working in a closed-off environment makes it impossible to see new ways of working and doesn't allow one to reach the horizons of innovation.

An increasingly larger understanding of the importance of design is developing in both the public  and the state governing sectors of Nordic countries, and designers are receiving increasingly more support. My job is to make sure that there is successful integration of the public and private sectors and the creative fields. Because only in working as one whole can design become a contribution to not only the culture, but to the economy as well.

Is that also the goal of the Nordic experimental marketing agency Keskula Creativity Management, of which you are the head?

The goal is to create new experiences, to create a new relationship model.

In organizing events and pop-up projects on an international level, we're promoting Nordic company expansion and growth in international markets; we're developing opportunities for new partnerships and cooperation.

For example, right now we're working on a large project in connection with Clerkenwell Design Week in London. During Clerkenwell Design Week, the latest and largest design festival in Europe, Gin Lane, a pop-up gin bar, will appear; our efforts in its creation were focused on combining various different disciplines in order to make a multi-dimensional phenomenon, in which the culinary aspect is just as important as its design and architecture.

I want to reach people without touching them; inspire them in such a way that they didn't think that they could be. I'm trying to create something that people aren't expecting, but once they experience it, they can't stop thinking about it.

People really like to not only enjoy great works of design or art, but to also meet and get to know the people that have created these works. That's why at ÖÖ: events, the designers are always present, so that the viewers can communicate with them, get to know their stories.


Thorunn Arnadottir. Sasa Clock

What do you think makes a good story?

What's interesting is the way that stories come together. In this era of globalization, no matter how long or in which part of the world we may live, or whatever we may do, we each have our own context of history, tradition and regional belonging – our own story. And in whatever part of the world we may be in, we can meet people from these stories. In Estonian, "ÖÖ" means “night”; and night – this long, cold and dark period of time – is something that the stories of the Nordic countries have in common. This regional feature – a unique experience that you won't find in Spain or Madagascar – in large part, dictates how the people of this region express themselves creatively, how they realize their innovative solutions.

This is where craftmanship comes into play...

I grew up in soviet times, when the only way you could survive was by making and growing things yourself. That is why I have a strong conviction and belief that it is possible to manufacture things yourself – to choose local production. Designers in the Baltic countries are already turning back towards craftmanship. It's also slowly happening in the Nordic countries; slowly, craftmanship is becoming a trend that will not only preserve the traditions of craftmanship, but will also strengthen the local economies. The public sector should show greater support of this initiative.

What is the greatest challenge in your job?

Often times, the greatest challenge is to prove to people that it is possible to think broader, that it is necessary to reject the setting of boundaries, because life is organic. Usually, people like to be able to put everything in its place – to be sure that this is an exhibition, or that this is a show... But I want to reveal to them what it is that things have in common, to show them the point of contact.

www.oowasitadream.com
www.merilynkeskula.com