Maija Isola at work, sitting cross-legged, paintbrush and paintpot in hand
15 March 1927|
|Died||3 March 2001(aged 73)|
|Known for||Marimekko patterns|
Maija Isola (born 15 March 1927 in Riihimäki, Finland, died 3 March 2001) was a leading Finnish designer of printed textiles. Her bold colourful designs made Marimekko famous in the 1960s. She also had a career as a visual artist.
|“||Undisputedly the most famous textile designer .. at Marimekko||”|
Life and career
In 1964, Isola defied Marimekko founder Armi Ratia's ban on floral patterns, setting the style of the company by painting the famous Unikko (Poppy) pattern in bold pink, red and black on white; the pattern has been in production ever since.
From 1987, Maija worked on painting, not textiles, until her death in 2001.
Ivar Ekman, writing in the New York Times, quotes Marianne Aav, director of the Helsinki Design Museum: "What we understand as the Marimekko style is very much based on what Maija Isola was doing". Ekman comments "The range of prints that Isola produced for Marimekko is astounding", as the patterns span "minimalistic geometric", "toned-down naturalistic" and "explosion of colors".
Marion Hume, writing in Time Magazine, explains that Isola "was able to mastermind an astonishing range, from the intricate and folkloric Ananas (1962)—which remains one of the most popular prints for the home market—to the radically simple, dramatically enlarged, asymmetrical Unikko poppy (1964), originally in red and in blue, which may be one of the most widely recognized prints on earth."
According to Tamsin Blanchard, writing in The Observer, "The designs of Maija Isola - one of the company's original and longest-standing designers - have stood the test of time." Blanchard describes as "timeless" Isola's 1972 Wind design "with its feathery organic tree skeletons in silhouette", her 1957 Putinotko "spiky black-and-white print", her 1963 Melon and her 1956 Stones.
Hannah Booth, writing in The Guardian, explains that Marimekko's founder, Armi Ratia, "recruited Maija Isola, the first and most important of many young female designers, to create original prints". She describes Isola as unconventional, leaving her daughter Kristina "to grow up with her grandmother so she could travel the world to find inspiration for her textiles". Booth quotes Finnish novelist Kaari Utrio as saying Isola was "a dangerously original character"; she "belonged to a trailblazing generation" enabling young women to move freely into the arts.
Lesley Jackson, in the aptly titled chapter Op, Pop, and Psychedelia in her textbook Twentieth Century Pattern Design, writes that "from Finland the exuberant all-conquering Marimekko burst on to the international scene" in the 1960s; she illustrates this with one pattern by Vuokko Nurmesniemi, and three by Isola – Lokki, Melooni, and inevitably Unikko.
- Of Lokki, Jackson writes "Isola revolutionized design with her simple, bold, flat patterns, printed on a dramatic scale. The design, whose title means 'seagull', evokes the lapping of waves and the flapping of birds' wings."
- Of the famous Unikko, Jackson explains "This huge, exploded poppy pattern embodies the unbridled design confidence of the mid-1960s, and presages the ebullience and sizzling colours of the flower power era."
Hanna-Liisa Ylipoti notes that "The themes of many Marimekko designs are also very Finnish, portraying Finnish nature. For example, Maija Isola created her Luonto (nature) design [series] using actual plant specimens".
Legacy of Marimekko patterns
In 2011, Marimekko flew a hot-air balloon decorated with an enormous version of Unikko over Helsinki, showing that the pattern remains iconic nearly half a century later. Marimekko's marketing policy is to reissue "classics from its fifty-year back catalogue, notably a large group of patterns from the 1950s and 1960s by Maija Isola."
Isola was described in 2013 as a style icon.
- Maija Isola and Marimekko, Retrospective exhibition, Design Museum (Designmuseo), Helsinki, Finland. 24 May 2005 – 4 September 2005.
- Marimekko: Fabric, Fashion, Architecture, Exhibition at Slovene Ethnographic Museum in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 1 July 2009 – 18 October 2009 
- Magnifying Nature: 1960s Printed Textiles, Exhibition at Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 5 March 2011 – 21 August 2011.
- Marimekko - The Story of a Nordic Brand, Exhibition at Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2 March – 28 May 2007.
- Fiell, Charlotte and Peter. Design of the 20th Century Taschen, 2001. ISBN 3-8228-5542-1
- Isola, Kristina. Maija Isola: Life, Art, Marimekko. Design Museo, 2005. ISBN 978-952-9878-42-0
- Jackson, Lesley. Twentieth Century Pattern Design. Princeton Architectural Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-56898-712-5
- Aav, Marianne. Marimekko: Fabrics, Fashion, Architecture. Yale University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-300-10183-6
- Fogg, Marnie. 1960s Fashion Print: A Sourcebook. Batsford, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7134-9054-1 (6 page-sized illustrations of Isola's prints) Google Books
- "Maija Isola". Marimekko. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
- "FinnStyle:Maija Isola". Finnish Designers: Maija Isola. FinnStyle. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- "Maija Isola patterns for Marimekko". Design Finland. 31 August 2006. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
- "Marimekko Timeline". Timeline. Marimekko.com. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- Kueber, Pam (17 October 2010). "RetroRenovation: Marimekko Unikko". Marimekko Unikko by Maija Isola, 1964. Retro Renovation. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "Primavera". Primavera. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- Jackson, 2007, page 200
- Ekman, Ivar (23 August 2005). "New York Times". Nostalgia for a modern Finnish designer. New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- "Maija & Kristina Isola". FinnStyle. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
- "Maija Isola: art, fabric, marimekko". Perimeter Books. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
- Hume, Marion (April 9, 2008). "Time Magazine". Luxury Source. Time Magazine. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- Blanchard, Tamsin (20 May 2001). "The Observer". Interiors:Marimekko:The Finnish Line. The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- Booth, Hannah (5 September 2005). "The Guardian: Life & Style: Women". Flower power. The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- Jackson 2007, pages 136–137 Examples of Maija Isola's prints, including Unikko
- Jackson 2007, page 136
- Ylipoti, Hanna-Liisa (3 February 2011). "Research". Marimekko's Path to Success During the 1950s and 60s. FAST-FIN-1 (TRENAK1) Finnish Institutions Research Paper. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- "Unikko hot-air balloon". Marimekko Unikko hot-air balloon flying above the silhouette of Helsinki. Marimekko. 22 June 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- Azzarito, Amy (15 November 2013). "Style Icon: Maija Isola". Design Sponge. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
- Retrospective exhibition at Designmuseo
- Exhibition Marimekko at Sem in Ljubljana
- Exhibition at Minneapolis Institute of Arts
- Exhibition at Design Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark
- Maija Isola Profile on Marimekko.com
- Maija Isola Profile and images on FinnishDesign.com
- Maija Isola Profile at Scandinavian Design Center
- Maija Isola – profile on BelovedLinens.net
- DesignMuseet – exhibition at Scandinavian Design Museum
- Finn Style – profile on FinnStyle.com
- Maija Isola – The Art Institute of Chicago
- Textile Designers in Finland (2) – global.designdb.com
- Flickr – Maija Isola exhibition