Who am I?
A trained Recreational Leader and a self taught ceramic artist, poet and occasional, spontaneous singer. I am a storyteller and entertainer.
Along with ceramics, have dabbled in watercolor, glass fusion, puppetry and quilting. I sing in a little band.
I have over 35 years of experience working as a recreation leader/teacher in kindergartens, elementary schools, youth group and women’s club environments.
My favorite things are my T@B caravan, my Nishiki Mountain bike, and my toy 1951 green Ford truck. I love living in Hyvinkää, Finland. And a few times a year, enjoy swimming with my flippers like a mermaid.
Married to Markku since 1982, we have 2 grown children and a beautiful grandson.
A LITTLE HISTORY:
I was born in Minnesota, USA. My childhood was full of long bike rides, forts in the back yard, walking barefoot to swim at the pool, ice skating and snow-mobiles. I loved the park. My friends and I played EVERYTHING from board to ball games, lanyard crafts, cardboard dramas and water balloon fights. And we laughed and sang all day. These are my best childhood memories.
In America, Finland was just one of many countries great grandparents came from. And we all knew where our friend’s grandparents came from. Most of mine traveled from rural parts of Sweden to the Midwest, but one of my great grandfathers came from England. He migrated to Canada and worked as a cook for the railroad builders that were reaching further and further west.
I identified myself as “mostly Swedish” until 1982. When I visited Finland for the first time (to marry Markku) and was asked what my nationality, I replied, “Swedish”. You can imagine the confused looks I got, I was clearly an American.
Most Midwestern Americans would answer they were German, Norwegian, Polish, Irish, Finnish, and a handful of other European countries. Of course, more accurately, they are all second or third generation Americans. Away from America, I gained a deeper understanding of what the challenges of immigrating meant.
Markku and I lived a year in Helsinki in 1984. It was still very homogeneous and isolated. Though Markku and I had met in email using an early version of the internet run by the university of Minnesota, the World Wide Web had was far from bringing the world together as it is now. The challenge of the Finnish language, lack of a social support and the reserved culture in the Cold War era was difficult. I was young and homesick.
I had studied Recreational Leadership at the University of MN. There I learned how to create community programs that provided a place to relax and remember the art of play. My natural strengths, my experiences and characteristics taught me how to lead activities that provided laughter and a sense of belonging. While at university, I worked in kindergartens and for Recreation Departments – where fun was at my fingertips through song, art and games.
But in 1984 Helsinki, being an educated American, I became an English Language Teacher. I loved language and words, so it was a good match. I had studied English, Children’s Literature and Creative Writing. But after a year, homesick for friends and family, we moved back to Minnesota.
A month before leaving Helsinki in 1984, I read an article about an American potter. She described her studio, her relationship to clay, her work and her lifestyle. I knew immediately, I wanted to become a ceramic artist.
BECOMING A CERAMIC ARTIST:
My first community education ceramics class had 8 electric wheels and 12 students. Instead of throwing, I began handbuilding houses. At Christmas, I gave everyone I loved a handmade ceramic house, it was so exciting I had to go lie down until the adrenaline wore off. It was satisfying. It was a joy.
It was definitely something I wanted to do again. Within a few years, I had a small studio in northern Minnesota, had saturated friends and family with ceramic houses and, supplied 20 local gift shops with ceramic wares.
NIILOVILLA STUDIO:RECREATION & CLAY CREATION:
In 1995, when Markku and I moved our family to Finland, I shipped a kiln to our house in Espoo.
I established NiiloVilla TMI in 2001 and began teaching art camp from my Espoo basement.
The Kindergarten Clayworks Tours began in 2004. What is Kindergarten Clayworks?
Over 15 years, I have taught hundreds of young children the basic skills of ceramic art. Many parents and children I meet now tell me that they still have their wares displayed!
My weekly Pottery Club (now at Espoo International School ) started in 2005. I have occasionally offered a Puppet Club as well.
The 2nd Saturday Workshops for Adults began in 2016.