By Henrik KIHLMAN
In the historic region of Isokyrö in the Ostrobothnia region of Finland we can, among other sights, find two very interesting specialties under the same roof. The place, an old local dairy, was originally famous for its exquisite cheese but now it hosts a local whiskey distillery and is also the home of a world champion awarded gin named after the region, Kyrö. But since this article isn´t about beverages let us move on to the other specialty in the same premises. The local goldsmith who is famous for his work where he applies the anticlastic raising technique combined with titanium, mokumegane and precious metals.
LEARNING A UNIQUE SKILL
Juha Koskela comes from an artist family. As a young boy school was not his favourite object of interest. So instead of continuing to the gymnasium the handy and practical youngster found himself studying at the Goldsmith school in the city of Lahti, Juha´s hometown. When his father was offered a teaching vacancy in the USA, Juha intercepted his education in Finland and was accepted to study at the Fine Art School´s metal department at Washington University in St Louis. There he studied under the legendary Finnish master silversmith Heikki Seppä who has developed the technique of anticlastic raising into the form of art we can see today in jewellery and sculptures created by artists around the world. The technique enables one to create the most complex forms using only a hammer and a stake. Learning to work with this technique was to become Juha´s faith and future.
RETURN TO FINLAND
After the intermission in St. Louis Juha came back to Finland to finish his education at the Goldsmith School in Lahti. After graduation he returned to St. Louis where he finished his master’s degree at Washington University under Heikki Seppä. Back in Finland Juha started his studio in his hometown Lahti. After a few years he decided that he wanted to try his wings on a larger stage and in 1986 he moved to Rockport, Maine and started to work for Michael Good, who also is a master of the anticlastic technique. For eleven years he developed his skills, both as an employee but also as an independent entrepreneur and acquired an exquisite reputation as an artist among his large clientele. However, when Juha´s children reached the age of starting school it was time to rethink the future once more. In this situation the Finnish educational system seemed more preferrable, so the family moved back to Finland once again. Juha became part of a jeweller’s collective called Union Design where he worked for eight years and the Finnish public got to enjoy the beautiful designs created with the new technique and the skills he had processed during the years in Rockport.
A UNIQUE MIX OF TECHNIQUE AND MATERIALS
In Juha´s work the anticlastic method is present as the main theme. A bold use of different materials is also a significant factor in his designs. Titanium is an interesting metal. Hard but yet light and it has a special feature. It can be coloured in just about every nuance using heat or electrical current. The element of colour is obviously a very important element for Juha. Also, the old Japanese mokume-gane technique of fusing layers of different metals into a block from which you can create metal plate in gorgeous patterns has become an important element in Juha´s artwork. The creativeness and brilliance of his designs rendered him the title “Goldsmith of the year” 2003.
SETTLING DOWN IN ISOKYRÖ
After eight successful years in Helsinki he left the metropole and moved to his wife´s family estate in Isokyrö in the Ostrobothnia region in western Finland. Here he has his shop and workshop, both situated in the same building that now serves as a whiskey distillery under the name Kyrö Distillery Company. Even though Isokyrö is a remote destination the distillery draws crowds and gives as such the best of conditions for a creative artist. A very intense summer season with a large number of visitors that are interested in luxury and skill, be it distilled beverages or exquisite jewellery, and a more peaceful winter season with time to explore and create new pieces and works of art. A must destination when visiting Finland.