Why paper is such a forgiving material

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Ritva Puotila and her son Mikko are pioneers in weaving handmade carpets, table linen and room dividers out of paper.

Using paper to write on is an everyday occurrence; weaving it into threads is a high art and at the same time the secret of the success of Woodnotes. The company is one of Finland’s figureheads and from its looms come its distinctive handmade carpets, table linen and room dividers. There is even furniture made of paper yarn.

At home in her Helsinki showroom and workshop, Ritva Puotila explains her philosophy: “My aim is to tease out the uniqueness of paper.” The creative mind behind Woodnotes draws on ideas from the rich tapestry of an artist’s life. 25 years ago, she and her son Mikko decided to go freelance. Since then, he has looked after the business side, while she does the designs. Ritva Puotila is fascinated by the inherent beauty of paper, the rustling sound it makes, its low weight, the natural brown tones of the raw material and the purity of its whiteness when bleached. And then again, there is the brightness of the colours when applied to this renewable raw material. Until she discovered that the threads could be turned into components for objects of an aesthetic or practical nature, the material was stuck with its “for emergencies only” image. Scraps of paper kept you warm. So, in times of need, it was pressed into service as a textile substitute, and because there was enough of it in Finland, it was often used as a fuel. The fuel that fired Ritva Puotila’s material, on the other hand, was aesthetics. The success story began.

Teppich von Woodnotes

Carpets by Woodnotes

Today, 80 percent of Woodnotes products are for export and are sold in 50 countries. The carpets win design awards and have even made it to MoMa in New York. Today, still as creative as ever, Ritva Puotila, for whom colours were always more important than patterns, takes Finnish landscapes and through the use of “her” material translates them into textiles, pushing its possibilities to the very limits. Sometimes, even other materials are woven into the texture. The spirit of the times is very much on the side of Woodnotes. Paper is sustainable and suitable for allergy sufferers. It also has very many more wonderful qualities. It repels dust and can absorb and release moisture. And if Woodnotes use it, as they now have done, for their new acoustic panels, it can even absorb sound.

Rita Breer

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