Helsinki Ink

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July 22, 2011

Step inside Marimekko’s printing factory for a look at how its iconic textiles come to life.

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  Designers Maija Louekari's Lappuliisa fabric is cut and rolled into bolts. Follow us as we step inside Marimekko’s printing factory for a look at how its iconic textiles come to life.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Designers Maija Louekari's Lappuliisa fabric is cut and rolled into bolts. Follow us as we step inside Marimekko’s printing factory for a look at how its iconic textiles come to life.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  Photographer Alex Subrizi visited the Marimekko factory in Helsinki in early 2011 to photograph the textiles being made. “I could not have asked for gloomier conditions,” he says, “so I was very grateful for the bright moods of my hosts and the brilliant color of their handicraft.”  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Photographer Alex Subrizi visited the Marimekko factory in Helsinki in early 2011 to photograph the textiles being made. “I could not have asked for gloomier conditions,” he says, “so I was very grateful for the bright moods of my hosts and the brilliant color of their handicraft.”

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  The magic starts in the artwork studio. Studio members, many of them trained as designers, interpret drawings from contributing designers and artists and convert them into patterns.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    The magic starts in the artwork studio. Studio members, many of them trained as designers, interpret drawings from contributing designers and artists and convert them into patterns.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  Studio member Eri Shimatsuka (left) and studio manager Petri Juslin (right) compare a first fabric proof to the artist’s original drawing.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Studio member Eri Shimatsuka (left) and studio manager Petri Juslin (right) compare a first fabric proof to the artist’s original drawing.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  Juslin inspects a printout for a new printing screen.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Juslin inspects a printout for a new printing screen.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  Next, the screens are made, and the designer chooses the color tones. In a room next to the printing machines, a locker with narrow drawers holds numerous pieces of neatly stacked, colorful fabrics.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Next, the screens are made, and the designer chooses the color tones. In a room next to the printing machines, a locker with narrow drawers holds numerous pieces of neatly stacked, colorful fabrics.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  In the color-selection room, Taina Tiilikainen thumbs through swatches to help designers pick the perfect combinations  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    In the color-selection room, Taina Tiilikainen thumbs through swatches to help designers pick the perfect combinations

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  The recipe for each color is attached to its corresponding fabric swatch, and after the designer chooses the right combination, the recipes are sent to the color kitchen. Some colors, such as beige and gray tones, are more difficult to produce than others; turquoise is notorious for sticking poorly to fabrics. “We have our trade secrets that ensure that the colors work,” says Anu-Mari Salmi, the production manager.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    The recipe for each color is attached to its corresponding fabric swatch, and after the designer chooses the right combination, the recipes are sent to the color kitchen. Some colors, such as beige and gray tones, are more difficult to produce than others; turquoise is notorious for sticking poorly to fabrics. “We have our trade secrets that ensure that the colors work,” says Anu-Mari Salmi, the production manager.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  The color kitchen, where inks are made, is located in an open area as the inks are non-toxic and odorless.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    The color kitchen, where inks are made, is located in an open area as the inks are non-toxic and odorless.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  The inks are stored in plastic wrap–covered buckets, which prevents a thick, top layer from forming. Each day, the color kitchen prepares hundreds of pounds of ink for the hues needed for the following day’s printing. “Thanks to having our own facilities, we can react quickly to sales,” Salmi says.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    The inks are stored in plastic wrap–covered buckets, which prevents a thick, top layer from forming. Each day, the color kitchen prepares hundreds of pounds of ink for the hues needed for the following day’s printing. “Thanks to having our own facilities, we can react quickly to sales,” Salmi says.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  Next, the textile printing machine is readied. Here, Jan Möller takes a ready screen for the iconic Unikko fabric to be placed on the machine.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Next, the textile printing machine is readied. Here, Jan Möller takes a ready screen for the iconic Unikko fabric to be placed on the machine.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  The Marimekko factory prints nearly 6,500 yards of fabric each day. The com­pany typically purchases its material, usually cotton, in 2,200- to 5,500-yard rolls or pallets from Germany, Peru, Turkey, and the Baltic nations. Flat screen–printing makes it possible to divide repeats in sections and create large-size patterns, from 24 inches to several yards long.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    The Marimekko factory prints nearly 6,500 yards of fabric each day. The com­pany typically purchases its material, usually cotton, in 2,200- to 5,500-yard rolls or pallets from Germany, Peru, Turkey, and the Baltic nations. Flat screen–printing makes it possible to divide repeats in sections and create large-size patterns, from 24 inches to several yards long.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  Each color is printed through its own color-specific, stencil-like plate.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Each color is printed through its own color-specific, stencil-like plate.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  The printing machine moves fabric forward automatically, even though workers spread the inks across the plates by hand. No computers are needed to determine the right quantity.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    The printing machine moves fabric forward automatically, even though workers spread the inks across the plates by hand. No computers are needed to determine the right quantity.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  The more complex the design and the more colors used, the more plates—and hands (up to four professionals at a time)—are required to run the 80-foot-long printer.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    The more complex the design and the more colors used, the more plates—and hands (up to four professionals at a time)—are required to run the 80-foot-long printer.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  After printing, the fabric is transferred to the steaming machine, where steam heated to 219 degrees Fahrenheit fastens the color to the fabric, ensuring durability and brightness. Next, the textiles go through washing in 203-degree water to shrink them down to their final sizes. A finishing machine applies any additional treatments, like softener, to the washed fabric. Here, the colors of Katsuji Wakisaka’s Green Green fabric are fastened to the cloth.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    After printing, the fabric is transferred to the steaming machine, where steam heated to 219 degrees Fahrenheit fastens the color to the fabric, ensuring durability and brightness. Next, the textiles go through washing in 203-degree water to shrink them down to their final sizes. A finishing machine applies any additional treatments, like softener, to the washed fabric. Here, the colors of Katsuji Wakisaka’s Green Green fabric are fastened to the cloth.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  Next, Marimekko’s quality inspectors, some who have worked at the company for more than 30 years, hand-inspect and grade the fabric. Theirs is a meticulous task: There can be only four small errors over 16 yards of fabric.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Next, Marimekko’s quality inspectors, some who have worked at the company for more than 30 years, hand-inspect and grade the fabric. Theirs is a meticulous task: There can be only four small errors over 16 yards of fabric.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  Here, another inspector checks a length of Pieni Unikko fabric.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Here, another inspector checks a length of Pieni Unikko fabric.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  If the fabric passes, it is cut and rolled into bolts, ready for displaying in stores or turning into garments, bags, cushions, tablecloths, and other Marimekko products.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    If the fabric passes, it is cut and rolled into bolts, ready for displaying in stores or turning into garments, bags, cushions, tablecloths, and other Marimekko products.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  Workers in the on-site sewing area prepare textiles to become linens, bags, and more.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Workers in the on-site sewing area prepare textiles to become linens, bags, and more.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  These Global Hassocks by Marimekko designer Tuula Pöyhönen brighten a hallway of the Marimekko factory. Instructions on how to make these yourself can be found in Marimekko's new book Surrur, a project book featuring fabric crafts and ideas from seven Marimekko designers.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    These Global Hassocks by Marimekko designer Tuula Pöyhönen brighten a hallway of the Marimekko factory. Instructions on how to make these yourself can be found in Marimekko's new book Surrur, a project book featuring fabric crafts and ideas from seven Marimekko designers.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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  Finally, trucks are packed with yards of colorful fabrics. The trucks drive to shops and ports and eventually transport the textiles to customers around the world. Watch our slideshow of iconic and favorite Marimekko patterns.  Photo by: Alex SubriziCourtesy of: 2011
    Finally, trucks are packed with yards of colorful fabrics. The trucks drive to shops and ports and eventually transport the textiles to customers around the world. Watch our slideshow of iconic and favorite Marimekko patterns.

    Photo by: Alex Subrizi

    Courtesy of: 2011

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