AS THE PEN TOUCHES the surface of the paper, the upright ears take form first, then the round snout and eyes. The end result is the round, graceful and playful Moomintroll who is known and loved the world over. Tove Slotte’s
job is to depict special moments from the Moomin stories on dishes made by Arabia. Moomin mugs, especially, have almost gained a cult following and are passionately collected far and wide, but most avidly in Finland, Sweden and Japan.
CURRENTLY BASED in Karjalohja in South Finland, Tove Slotte lived her childhood in Jakobstad. Her roots are buried deep in the Ostrobothnian soil and many of her child- hood memories were made on the cliffs of the Lepplax archipelago. Slotte suspects that the lakeside location of her family’s summer cottage and the barren beauty surrounding it have influenced her art, including the Moomin dishes. The cottage is located on an island with few creature comforts. Consequently, the Moomins’ lifestyle feels very familiar and homely to her. “I have experienced many kinds of storms on the island and on a boat and completely comprehend Moominpappa’s fascination with them. I’d say I have a good understanding and even some personal experience of what the Moomins’ life is like. I don’t know if you can see it in the way I work, but perhaps it helps me absorb the stories and images”, Slotte says.
THE MOOMIN STORIES ARE STEEPED IN THE LANDSCAPE OF THE FINNISH SOUL –OURWAYOF THINKING AND ACTING
TOVE SLOTTE met the creator of the Moomin characters, Tove Jansson, 30 years ago. They agreed that Slotte will only use Jansson’s Moomin pictures for the Arabia dishes. She doesn’t create something entirely new but instead reflects and respects Jansson’s original art as much as possible.
“Maybe the best thing about Jansson’s Moomin illustrations is the fact that every single picture, however small, is a work
of art in itself. Every day I admire how a single comic strip frame can be so balanced and perfect, the lines so beautiful and the general result so elegant and well thought out”, Slotte says. The most popular mug ever is the pink Moomin Love, in which Moomintroll and Snorkmaiden hug each other. This is the piece many collectors start with. Behind every mug there is a story, and if there is something in the story you can identify with, it’s easy to fall in love with the mug.
“But the atmosphere is also important! The Night Sailing and Moomin’s Day mugs are many people’s favourites. Both depict a sunset by the sea. In one, the Moomin family are sailing home after an adventure and, in the other, Moominmamma is sitting high on a cliff with Moomintroll under her arm, admiring the sunset. These pictures are filled with emotion.”
IN SLOTTE’S OPINION, the Moomins are a fitting inspiration for Finnish design, because nature is always present in the stories. Slotte also describes the Moomins as persistent creatures that epitomise Finnish “sisu”, i.e. determination.
“The Moomin stories are full of roughness and emotion and never pretty and pastel-hued. In my view, the stories are steeped in the landscape of the Finnish soul – our way of thinking and acting”, she explains.
Every summer to this day, Slotte draws new creativity and inspiration from her summer home in Lepplax, which was built by her grandfather in the 1940s. It remains the family’s shared summer paradise with its creativity-inspiring environment where the children and their cousins lounge on the warm lakeside cliffs, build trolls and cabins out of stones, fish and swim to their hearts’ content.
“What I most love about it are the cliffs. I can think of nothing cosier than the cliffs, stones, pines and the lapping of water. At the northern end of the island there are smooth red-granite cliffs. That’s where I recorded the image of the sun setting over the lake on the surface of a particular Moomin dish”, she reveals.
SLOTTE FINDS it easy to identify with the Moomins’ life-affirming stories. They almost seem to blend happily with her own childhood memories. Which of the Moomin characters would Tove Slotte herself be, then?
“I suppose I have a sprinkling of many of the characters. Moominmamma the most and definitely some Moominpappa too. Like him, I like to dream about far-off places and revel in my thoughts of them in the safe and familiar surroundings of my veranda. I like to admire storms and see the flashes of lightning. I want to sail to the farthest island and watch the sun sink into the sea. But like Moominmamma, I love to take care of my family, make juices and jams, grow crops and raise my children, to comfort and love them.”