I strongly believe that plant life turns a house into a home. Unfortunately, I also have three fur babies who think anything and everything is a snack, so I am extremely limited as to which plants I can actually have. Either the cats eat them and get sick, or the plant dies. I’ve gotten around this by hanging almost all our plants or using air plants.
When I first saw the beautiful designs Johnna has creating for Lumota Designs, I was blown away by the intricacy and delicacy of these beautiful himmelis. They are now my go-to when I want to bring some plant life into the house, as there is a sacredness to the history and tradition behind these creations. Read on to understand more about what they are and who Johnna, the remarkable woman that makes them is.
Tell us a bit about how you got started.
Making himmelis was a hobby I started when I let my position in a high end post production studio in Toronto. I made the decision in 2012 to leave my nice job to focus on raising my two kids, also taking in daycare kids to continue bring in some income. Making himmelis became a much needed creative outlet after leaving a really fun and dynamic work atmosphere. Staying home and looking after children full-time was the right decision but challenging as well. In 2014 our family decided to move to the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, where I was born and raised. With my kids in school full time I decided to turn my hobby into a business by attending indie craft markets and setting up an Etsy shop. It’s been a blast so far!
What is a himmeli?
A himmeli is a time-honoured handicraft from Finland, essentially a handcrafted geometric mobile. Himmelis were traditionally made with straw from a Finnish family’s crop of rye and hung over the table during the winter harvest festival to ensure a good crop the following year – the more elaborate the himmeli, the more abundant next year’s crop. The most beautiful himmeli were stored hanging from the rafters of Finnish attics from one year to the next. The word himmel is an ancient word meaning heaven or sky.
Why do you make them? How do you come up with the designs?
I make himmelis for a few reasons. I think they are beautiful and I absolutely love their history. The important one is my family connection to the craft. My father-in-law is from Finland and my husband and children have dual citizenship. We have visited Finland and maintain a strong connection to the family still living there, quite an extended bunch. Since being introduced to Finnish culture when I met my husband I have become quite fascinated and truly admire Finland, their politics, their people, their Scandinavian values and incredible sense for clean, strong design. When I stumbled across a beautiful himmeli on Pinterest I quickly discovered the craft’s Finnish roots. I spoke to my father-in-law and contacted my Finnish cousins to find out more. I learned that making himmelis is currently a common craft for children to do at Christmastime and all my Finnish family had memories from childhood of making himmelis. I love continuing this tradition, expanding on it and making at least a small part of Finnish culture real to my children.
My husbands Finnish cousin referred my to Eija Koski’s wonder book Himmeli. My traditional designs are based on Eija Koski’s book and images of traditional styles I have found on the internet. The author and I became Facebook friends and she has encouraged me in my craft. The minimal designs I make, often used to display air plants, are simply the basic components of the larger, more traditional himmelis. I come up with the designs based on the air plants I like to use.
What do air plants add to a home?
Air plants are such an interesting little plant, they really pique people’s curiosity. They have so many unique characteristics; textures, shapes, colours. They are fun, easy to care for and do the same awesome jobs as regular houseplants, filtering your air and adding green interest and life wherever you put them!
What do you hope your products will add to the spaces they end up in?
Definitely some traditional Scandinavian style. Vertical interest, an architectural element. Importantly though I like to share the story of the himmeli’s history of being an invitation for abundance. I think that if you place one in your space with that intention in mind it will draw positive energy. I truly believe that, even if it sounds corny.
What inspires you?
Inspiration comes in many forms. My family, friends, other artists, this beautiful island where I live, interesting architecture, history, great design. A large part of my ongoing inspiration comes from my step-granny Ingrid’s memory. She was from Sweden, where she attended art school in Stockholm and went on to become a successful textile artist and portrait painter here in Canada. She continued in her artistic pursuit until her final days; she was impassioned and incredibly inspiring. Her sense of style and her beautiful Scandinavian/MCM styled home in Toronto became my primary inspiration for home decor since living with her for a short time in 1999/2000. Before she passed she bequeathed me many beautiful items, cloths she had woven, her loom, a few paintings, household items she loved – I love them now too, so much. I love being surrounded by her creations and think of her frequently, sometimes wondering if she can see me, following her footsteps in my own way.
What is your ultimate goal, both personally and professionally?
Professionally my goals change from week to week. In the end I would like to be recognized for being good at what I do, and in a dream world kind of way perhaps one day have my designs appear in the pages of a nice magazine such as Dwell or Elle Decor. For personal goals right now my main aim is for my husband and I to raise nice, well adjusted kids without too many disagreements along the way. I think the kids will find “success” if they are confident and have compassion. Eventually hubby and I would like to have a larger piece of land to call our own, grow some food, continue to be creative, and get the bills paid. Also, I haven’t had the opportunity to travel as much as I’d like; I’d definitely like to tick a few countries off my wish list.
How do you define success?
I have never been a goal oriented person in terms of 5 year plans and so on. So success for me is probably different than for a lot of other people. I feel my story has personally been a success, overcoming a challenging childhood and living a stable, creative life with a beautiful, loving family.
How do you find balance?
I sometimes struggle with finding balance, often feeling overwhelmed at all the responsibilities I have in raising a family, owning and maintaining a home, and running my own business. But, I have a few things that help me out. I don’t say yes to everything, making sure not to take on too much to handle. I’m a fairly organized person so I have good time management skills, which helps. I also try to squeeze in regular yoga practice (at home with www.doyogawithme.com) which helps to quell all the anxiety I seem to have. Eating well is another priority; home cooking and good nutrition beats convenience by far.
What do you feel is the most important thing in life?
I just turned 40 this year and have come to realize that having good relationships is my most important thing. It’s great to have nice stuff, a good job, etc. but if you have regular negativity in your important relationships what’s the point?
Biggest reward being an entrepreneur? Biggest struggle?
When people tell you they love what you’re doing/making/providing it’s the best feeling. Also of course it’s pretty cool to be able to do what you want to do everyday, deciding exactly the direction you want to go, and making it happen.
The biggest struggle for me is not having a person to tell me what to do sometimes! When I’m overwhelmed or discouraged I wish I had a boss or co-worker, someone who could reassure me and support me, give advice or just have a laugh with me. I miss my post-production days for this reason. I genuinely loved the relationships and confidence I gained from great relationships with my colleagues.
What advice do you have for those starting their own endeavours?
My advice to folks who are considering going out on your own? First, don’t procrastinate – someone else will have your idea while you’re still thinking about it. After that, be organized, know your limits, and have a person you can talk with when the going gets rough. Also, don’t undersell yourself. Think carefully about your pricing, whether it’s for a product or a service. All those little ongoing expenses add up quickly, so make sure you factor them in!