Who we are, what we do?

Puuartisti (Wood Artist) is a Finnish woodworking business with a focus on unique projects ranging from individual pieces of furniture to complete interior design installations, wooden buildings and structures. We are not a factory with assembly lines, but instead we are a bunch of ambitious cabinetmakers and fine woodworkers who design, manufacture and finish everything according to the customers’ individual needs and desires.

We are on a quest of pushing the limits of woodworking, because we believe that wood can be used to almost anything – it’s only a question of creativity and talent. In all our projects we use pure solid wood, which we also combine with other materials such as glass, metal and stone. At our workshop in Kontiolahti, Eastern Finland, we have space and equipment to carry out large-scale projects and we can do installations around the world.

Recently we have also been preparing the launch of our own furniture collection. The core idea in our collections is to use wood materials that carry a special meaning – the growing location and history of which we know and want to pass on to the customer in the form of the furniture. Then we will make small, limited editions of furniture from the specific material. We also make personal storywood items by turning customers’ own wood materials into family treasures.

First there was a vision

Long before Miikka dared to say it out loud that he wanted to start his own company, the spirit of Puuartisti was clear: let solid wood show its natural beauty and versatility in furniture and wooden structures that are durable and that age beautifully. Puuartisti would never produce anything in mass. Instead, every piece is unique with its own story to tell. When Miikka was still employed by others, the idea about entrepreneurship started to sprout. His dream was to do everything his way – without compromising.

Finally, getting fired was the final push for Miikka to enroll in an entreneurship course and start sparring his business idea with business coaches in the fall 2013. At the same time he was already working on some pretty big customer projects through a cooperative, after which it was easier to finally move under his own roof.

And the roof was found from Kontioranta, Finland, when the old garrison buildings were sold for business use. So this one-man workshop found its home amidst the North Karelian pine forests just before Christmas in 2014. The building had been used as a storage and as a battery maintenance unit, but now the interior got filled with woodworking machinery and tools, and soon the first projects got out of the workshop and into the homes of new customers.

Teamwork and craftsmen’s pride

It didn’t take long until the projects grew bigger and more complex, as Puuartisti was noted by customers near and further. It became clear that one pair of hands was not enough. Today, Puuartisti employs four other skilled woodworkers and different personalities: Mika Kareinen, Niilo Nissinen, Jan Stephen and Evgeny Rongonen.

What is in common with these people is the passion for craftsmanship and unique projects. When there is no set formula how to do things, you have to be able to “see things” and solve problems without a manual. Each artist is also committed to learning. This is what Puuartisti is all about – the shared goal to fulfill customer’s wishes with a unique outcome, when everyone works together, using their own specific skills.

Even though the pace of growth has been almost overwhelming, the spirit of Puuartisti can’t and won’t change. Living and breathing this traditional, yet modern craftsmanship means that we will stand for our work and develop our skills all the time, while we set higher goals for ourselves all the time.

We won’t be aiming for the fastest, easiest and most straight-forward way to make something. Instead, we focus on thoroughly planned, functional, timeless design and execution that pleases the eye for decades to come.

ARTISTS

Miikka Kotilainen

In the early stage, Puuartisti equalled Miikka. But soon his role evolved from running a one person company to leading a proper team. Finding the right team members with similar kind of passion and determination for woodworking has been the crucial step towards Miikka being able to concentrate on the bigger scale. His role is in the center: communicating with clients, interior designers, craftsmen from different fields as well as managing the actual execution of the project.

Apart from this, he is committed to developing Puuartisti as a whole – the workshop, new methods for woodworking as well as his personal skills. However, Miikka doesn’t want to sit all day designing and planning, but often he finds himself in the sawdust; testing, refining and finishing something concrete.

Testing and figuring out how things work has always been an essential part of Miikka ever since he was a child. Sometimes the features of different wood materials have been researched with an axe, sometimes with soaking them in a water tank. Nevertheless, the continuous habit of doing things manually, by hand, has given perspective to ‘official’ wood artisan studies that Miikka completed in 2008 and inspired Miikka to come up with creative solutions even to seemingly simple problems. At some point Miikka started engineering studies in wood technology, but entrepneurship won – as a lifestyle with continuous learning and applying new things straight into action.

For Miikka, entrepreneurship essentially is about continuous learning and development, which is built on a happy team and bad jokes in both the workshop and the break room. The biggest source of motivation for Miikka is the expression on a customer’s face when they see how their vision has turned into something concrete in the hands of Puuartisti: when both think that the end result is beautiful, functional and exactly what was sought after.

Miikka seeks inspiration to his work from nature. It’s not only the fact that a nice stroll in a forest lets his brain cool off – but also that the different shapes, colours and textures might someday turn into new, creative designs.

Mika Kareinen

You’re lucky to find a guy who is more precise than Mika. If he can’t get enough of detailed work during workshop hours, you will find find him relaxing while doing something ‘pretty precise’ like archery or axe-throwing on his free time.

Mika has been into woodworking since he was a young boy, but at first he thought he didn’t want to ruin a nice hobby by making it a profession. However, after years of working in the electricity industry, he couldn’t help but follow his dream and completed the wood artisan training in the same institute as Niilo and Miikka.

He has also has been working in a pretty hard-boiled environment – in a jail. After he graduated, he worked in the prison, teaching the long-term prisoners furniture-making and restoration skills. He has also been working on his own projects through a cooperative and his own trade name.

Wood is truly the one and only element for Mika: warm, soft and easily approachable. For instance, he has made collections of wooden jewellery from curly birch and birch burls that reveal their beautiful grain figures after a skilled colouring. Mika enjoys spending time and getting inspired in nature, while roaming the forests with his Samoyed-Finnish Lapphund called Jelmu.

What motivates Mika at Puuartisti is that the company never ceases to develop and grow – in many ways. He is determined to put all is focus on pulling off the more and more challenging projects with accuracy. Like the other artists, Mika enjoys getting out of his comfort zone while learning something new – we will see what kind of new tricks he will perform in the years to come!

Niilo Nissinen

The interest in woodworking practically runs in the blood of Niilo Nissinen, who joined Puuartisti in the spring of 2016. There are many skilled woodworkers in Niilo’s family tree and eventually Niilo changed his profession from HVAC installation work to cabinetmaking, and completed the same wood artisan training as a few other artists.

For Niilo, it is essential that everything is made out of solid wood and everything is custom-made to order, since working on an assembly line is out of the question. In addition to being a multi-talented fine woodworker with expertise in fine arts such as instrument building, his special area of expertise is freehand custom carving using traditional manual tools.

His motto “always aim higher” is shared with every artist at Puuartisti, so it is not any wonder that we get along pretty well. Nature-related free time activities seem to be something we all are very much into, since also Niilo likes to spend his spare time fishing or hiking in the wilderness, seeking silence and inspiration – or then nurturing the vegetable garden that he established on the workshop yard. But only when he is not finishing one of his own woodworking projects under way…

Jan Stephen

This guy has come a full circle as he completed his military service in the Kontioranta garrison in 2001 and left to London to work, and came back to the same location after 17 years – to work for Puuartisti. During his years in England, Jan worked with skilled carpenters and cabinetmakers and learned from them as they completed massive interior furnishing projects – big city style. Even though Jan has made furniture for these ‘hardly known’ artists like Adele, for instance, he is a down-to-earth, genuine guy, who works on Puuartisti’s furniture projects with steady hands and guaranteed results.

At Puuartisti, Jan appreciates that things are carried out properly and from scratch – as during the crazy times in London the might even have to do final finishings in the van on the go. He enjoys working with minute details, and to balance that, to paint meters and meters of panels – as long as there is variation.

Jan has also been running his own business, and therefore he dares to challenge Miikka’s thoughts and discuss about the development of Puuartisti as a whole. He is looking forward to seeing how Puuartisti will go forward, and hopefully he will get to work on such massive furniture installations as during his times in London, where the whole house could be built around the wooden interior solutions, and not the other way around.

The ‘senior’ member of Puuartisti often finds himself cleaning the workshop and making sure that also others proceed in their tasks. An interesting fact from his past is that he has been doing dj gigs! Therefore many times he is responsible of the choice of music or British radio shows that are played at the workshop.

In his free time, Jan enjoys relaxing in the nature of Kontiolahti and spending time with his son – as long as the next trip abroad is already planned out.

Evgeny Rongonen

The youngest of the team, Evgeny, joined the team in early 2019. Despite his age, he has achieved a lot – in the Finnish national skills competitions (Taitaja) he got second in his second study year and won the championship in his third year. After that, he was asked to join the jury in the finals. And he is only getting started – next he is aiming at Master Cabinetmaker qualification – perhaps as the youngest person ever in Finland.

Evgeny was born in Petrozavodsk, Russia, and he has been living in Finland since the age of 7. He has learned craftsmanship skills also as a family tradition, as his grandfather has been doing a lot of carving, and his father has been helping young Evgeny with scale models one day, and building a rocking chair on the other. When the woodworking lessons started at school, Evgeny’s teacher could immediately tell that he knew what he was doing and urged him to continue – so Evgeny chose woodworking studies in Joensuu.

Evgeny is the type of person who really delves into the specific thing he wants to learn. Besides schooling and training, he has spent hours and hours watching YouTube videos and googling – and then transferring what he just saw into practice.

For Evgeny, work duties needs to be interesting and varied – as he even said that if he was forced to work on a factory line, he would “rather change profession and drive a truck instead”. Actually, motor vehicles are his second love after woodworking, and he uses a lot of his free time for polishing and fine-tuning his latest car purchase.