Paja is a boutique full of the most heavenly jewellery and colourful accessories, operating in the workroom of three jewellery designers. I had an interview with jewellery designers Elli Hukka and Anne Kokkonen.
Stylish, modern, and fun Paja, Eerikinkatu 18
Jewellery designers Elli and Anne met in the Västra Nylands folkhögskola school in Karjaa. The school offered the opportunity to design jewellery, which immediately sparked the interest of Elli. Anne, in turn, always had a strong interest towards textiles. “That’s the funny thing—I was never particularly interested in jewellery. At the school, I got to work with metal for the first time, which enthralled me completely. Sometimes, we got so carried away that we slept in the silver workshop of the school over the weekend,” says Anne, laughing.
Elli and Anne both ended up in the Jewellery Design programme in Lahti. Elli set up her own business when starting her master’s studies in the School of Arts and Design in 2009. Entrepreneurship alongside studies was a very natural solution. “It made it easy to carry on as a full-time entrepreneur after graduating,” says Elli, emphasising that she could not even imagine suddenly starting as an entrepreneur now. “The fact that there is more than one of us in this is also an important asset. Setting up a shop alone is not something I would see myself doing,” she says.
Freedom to follow your passion
According to Elli and Anne, the knowledge of your own freedom and the power to make decisions is the best part of being an entrepreneur. “In a way, I had to become an entrepreneur because I did not want to give up my creative input to the use of anyone else,” says Elli. “Of course, I still enjoy being an entrepreneur, even though it’s obligatory.” According to them, individuals in the creative industry are not given much choice in Finland, and many people drift into entrepreneurship by force. However, the passion towards your industry and profession takes centre stage.
Of course, financial instability is one of the drawbacks of being an entrepreneur. “Also, you always have an understating attitude towards your own entrepreneurship, even though you work hard. I still haven’t learned to appreciate all the time I spend on my work,” confesses Anne. A creative process entails a wide range of twists and turns. Sometimes, you lose your way, and have to go back to where you started. “In fact, a creative process can never be calculated as working hours,” says Anne. As with many entrepreneurs, the concept of work overall is easily obscured. “Until quite recently, I did not learn to say that I’m going to work when I leave my house in the morning,” says Elli, laughing.
Elli and Anne draw inspiration from small everyday thoughts and ideas. Anne’s work strongly reflects graphicness and a simplified design language. Elli is particularly inspired by colours, even though she says it is considered an old-fashioned starting point in the design industry. Elli also draws inspiration from materials and their recycling. “I want to make art out of something that came to the end of its life as something else,” says Elli. She shows great skill in breathing completely new life into old objects. Elli and Anne actively follow the trends of the design industry. Magazines, blogs, and flea markets are excellent sources of inspiration. Rummaging through flea markets is a particularly exciting tourist activity when travelling. Elli also sees the surrounding nature as a great inspiration in her creative process.
Joining the action
Previously, Elli and Anne had a workroom in Kallio. As soon as they opened a shop in their workroom, they knew they had to move to the heart of the city. Anne finds it important to actively gather the individuals of the industry together. “Being a member of the Design District Helsinki is absolutely useful. Customers find us on the map, and overall, it feels like your business is taken more seriously when you are a member of the Design District. I think it is wonderful that we all get some collective appreciation from this,” says Elli.
Paja makes customised orders beyond belief. The original ideas of customers are transformed into unique pieces of jewellery in the hands of these experts. “We are very approachable designers, come meet us!” says Anne and Elli, laughing.
Text and picture: Anni Honkaharju