Most of the houses in the countryside in Finland are timber and mainly painted with a live brick-red colour with white trims. In old days unpainted houses were looked upon as poverty, but no longer. It is known that the surface of wood hardened by sun and rain is lasting. Studio Karin Widnäs stands unpainted for many years and will receive gradually the silvery patina which only time can create. It is harmonising extremely well together with the copper roof. Just as all other things this building is a conscious choice. Indoors the timber will not turn grey, but will give the house a strong character of the warmth of wood, accentuated by white surfaces and light.

Karin Widnäs has realized a dream that must be of most ceramists. She has built a house consisting of a spacious studio and, a house in which she has been able to experiment with ceramic surfaces. The way from a workshop in a garage to big light spaces has been consequent and purposeful. Her choice of profession was made at the age of 9 as she was able to help in the porcelain shop of her mother. After that there has been no hesitation, the University of Art and Design, own studio, own production, own marketing and teaching both for stimulation and as an economical stabilising factor.

The dream of the house arose when moving to the craft colony in Fiskars located about 70 km west from Helsinki. The aim of the Village was to fill up a closed up works area with new activity and artists and craftspeople were invited to move into old houses and renovate them allowing them to keep their old village character. Karin chose to build a new one. It became a small commission for a big architect – an enormous project for a single ceramist. Karin´s proverb is Think big, which she did even in this case. It became a house in which both the visions of the architect and the wishes given by the client had been totally considered. The basis was clear, the work was central, the house was to be in timber and bare clear marks of craft. It became a house with an open and closed façade and with a striking roof outline, which steeply lowers against the window wall with a view towards the lake.

Collaboration between architect Tuomo Siitonen and Karin Widnäs was based on mutual confidence. Fine lines have not been frittered away with overloaded furniture. The house has become a point of reference not only to the owner but also to the architect. Something that was obvious when 2006 the house was given a prise of honour as the timber house of the year.

Karin moved in when the house was still half-finished and her living was extremely frugal. Gradually she knew precisely how she wanted it. From the beginning she gave the house project 10 years. Everything has been finished gradually in accordance to the financial flow. There is much in the saying hurry slowly, not to force. The cabinet- makers in Fiskars are worldwide known. They have been largely responsible for the furnishing, doors, windows and particularly the sculptural stairs, beautiful from all sights. Furthermore the timing has turned up to be the right one. With in ten years Fiskars Village has, due to all new immigrants, grown to become a tourist attraction of status, in which case Studio Karin Widnäs plays an important role. Not only those who are interested in ceramics and craft are attracted, but even architects and interior architects as well.


The summer when the drawings were ready Karin made building bricks. She made the bricks at an old brickyard the way one used to make them for thousands of years. The technique was old but the design was new, a slight bending which gives the outdoor wall a shadow play. An indoor wall surface is built up with cast earthenware tiles, thinner material on the wall and gives a similar effect. This creates a dialog between different techniques.

The floor in the kitchen and dining space can be seen as an example of how beautiful can be the combination of standard manufactured tiles together with the handmade tiles. Standard tiles are enlivened by combining handmade smaller tiles in stripes, which gives a livelier impression. The entry floor has similar square tiles, probably consisting of over thousand pieces, some signed with the stamp Studio Karin Widnäs. A supreme way to sign floors and walls.

All these surfaces demonstrate the unlimited possibilities a ceramist can offer. Relief in wall material can be built up in variable concave or convex designs, size, colours and glazes can be decided and ordered according to free choice. The handmade can be combined in edgings and panels with existing surfaces.

As a pure experiment one can call the terrace where the brick tiles have been put straight on the earth. It is a proper way of testing how long they hold. The fireplace in the studio arches in parade and raku fired. Even it is a new conquest area, a combination of tradition and new thinking, a source of heat in ecological spirit. The back wall in the kitchen consists of black ash-glazed tiles. The ashes have been gathered from the heating with spare wood developed during building using it as a flux in the glaze. It is an effective background against the light wood surface. The bathroom has white square tiles on floor and three walls. The forth wall is covered with the relief Wavy consisting of variable wavelike cast forms in matt white. Exquisite, calm.

The building is clearly divided into studio and index. For three years running, beginning 2006, Karin has invited ceramic artists to exhibit in the private space. From the very start this has shown how ceramics can be utilized in a index atmosphere - a way to show visitors the now so famous architecture. In the interior can be seen even strong permanent elements by Fiskars´ artists, in furniture, lamps, art and sculptural pieces.

In connection with the studio is a showroom where products of the workshop are for sale. Karin Widnäs´ long carrier as a ceramist consists of many phases. It holds as well series of utility ware as unique pieces, a constantly on-going development and renewal. Cast products have so many handmade faces that the final product has a personal impress. Threw all different phases in Karin Widnäs work one can discover an individual style, an own line. Journeys, especially to Korea, have been inspiring as well as the nature all over.

It is clear that no ceramist builds a house consisting of 350 square meters without an exceptional energy and diligence. For those who have followed the whole project have been filled with periods of wonder, but she herself says she never hesitated. It is another of her devises, believe in yourself. It concerns the work itself. If not otherwise one learns by failures.

During years Karin has made wish-boxes, round and square, glazed in delicate tones. They function definitely. Many years ago she wrote on a piece of paper “A HOUSE”, burned it and left the ashes in the box. Voilá.

Text: Carla Enbom