We also noticed this amazing steel sculpture in the yard of one of the artisans on the main street; we later learned it was the work of Howard Smith, an American-born artist who moved to Fiskars in 1998 with his wife, the ceramicist Erna Altonen (more on this sweet couple later!)

In Finland

If you’re a longtime reader of this site, you know that we are, above all, sunshine-seeking people who happen to be inextricably linked to New York and its fickle seasons. Normally we leap at the chance to hightail it off the East Coast anytime between November and April, in search of beaches, pools, palm trees, and vitamin D. But somehow, while Monica and the rest of the design world headed to Miami at the beginning of December, I found myself saying yes to a week in Finland, home of 30-degree temperatures and 3PM sunsets. When I arrived, no fewer than three people delighted in telling me that the previous month in Finland had seen only 15 hours of sunshine.

There was a lot of that in Finland — hearing the same story from multiple people, like the one about Elton John buying a rare piece of contemporary Finnish glass — and in the end that’s one of the things I ended up loving most: the cozy familiarity that comes from being a country with a population that’s almost half that of New York City. Everyone tells you the same stories, everyone eats split-pea soup and pancakes on Thursdays, and everyone in the design and craft world seems to know each other.

I spent five days in Helsinki and the Finnish countryside (along with our wonderful host, Katarina Siltavuori, a Finnish curator working on behalf of Ornamo, and two other curators), meeting a huge number of those designers, seeing more than a few design factories and exhibitions, and achieving a personal holy grail: visiting the Alvar Aalto home and studio, which didn’t disappoint. I also visited the studio of an up-and-coming fashion designer who so epically impressed us she’ll be getting her own story in the coming weeks. Til then, here’s a look at the sights we saw and the work we loved.