Call for papers

“The North as a Meaning in Design and Art”

International Conference on the History of Design and Design Culture
Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Tapio Wirkkala and Rut Bryk
Dates: 3031 October 2015
Venue: Korundi House of Culture, Rovaniemi, Finland
Organizers: Art and Cultural Studies, University of Lapland, and Rovaniemi Art Museum in collaboration with the Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation

The year 2015 marks 100 years since the birth of Finnish designer and artist Tapio Wirkkala (19151985). Wirkkala and his spouse, ceramic artist Rut Bryk (19161999), had a special relationship to the North and Lapland. The nature, tranquillity and people of Lapland offered them inspiration for their work and a reprieve from what were often hectic international careers.

As Wirkkala said in the journal Domus in 1981, “Lapland has become a place where I can charge my batteries. It has become a lifeline that I seize when I feel like I am drowning. When I become distressed at seeing Europe’s opulence and all of its side-effects, the sweaty smell of selfishness and ambition…when I feel like I am drowning and the pain is intense, I leave it all behind and go to Lapland. This has become a means for me to concentrate and survive… My world of art… it is my way of life and the quality of my work. It has grown through the experiences that people in the North have every day. The nature and the people there share the same continuous process of development. It is a recurring process – winter, spring, summer, autumn – yet always new and surprising.”

“The North as a Meaning in Design and Art”will offer an opportunity to explore the significance of the North, drawing on the example of the work of Tapio Wirkkala and Rut Bryk. The focal question is: What has the North meant to design and art to individual artists and their art and to national and regional design and art cultures? During the conference an exhibition presenting the art of Tapio Wirkkala will be opened in the Korundi House of Culture, part of the Rovaniemi Art Museum. The exhibition is being arranged by the Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation.

The conference will consist of keynote lectures and discussions of working papers. It will also offer an optional one-to-two-day programme, including excursions, dealing with northern design and art. Details of the programme will be made available later.

The conference will focus on the meaning of the North in industrial arts, design or visual arts, probing the significance of the North for artists and designers and their work. On a broader level, it will examine the importance of the North in conscious efforts by national or regionally identified industrial arts or art to distinguish themselves in the field of Western industrial arts, design and visual art.

Proposals are invited for presentations (20 min.) focusing on individual designers and artists, such as Wirkkala and Bryk; individual works and production; publicity in the media for fields of art; the image that has been formed of a designer or artist and his/her art; and interpretations of design and art.

Contributions may deal with topics such as the following:

– What significance has the North had for designers and artists? Examples: Lapland as a source of inspiration, a place to work, a place to spend free time, a home
– What themes, phenomena or events have created the link between the North/Lapland and design/art? What specific elements does this link entail? Examples: northern nature, landscapes and people
– What is the relation between the publicity for design or art and Lapland and the North, for instance, when writing about Finnish design? Example: Finland as a northern design country.
– Has the North been a necessary element in building a design identity or mental images specifically in the field of international design?  Or has it been significant in the national context as well?
– How have the North and/or Lapland been experienced or produced in design and art in concrete form or as a mental image? Examples: publicity, exhibitions, the media
– Scandinavian design and the North
– Tourism, design and art in the North
– Ethnicity, periphery, exoticism, otherness

Please submit an abstract (150 to 300 words) of your presentation by 28 February 2015 in the form of an e-mail attachment to Maija Mäkikalli, at

Additional information: Maija Mäkikalli,