TYYNE-KERTTU VIRKKI 1907-2000
Born in Sakkola in 1907, Tyyne-Kerttu Virkki spent her youth in the Karelian isthmus from 1907–29. Her parents, Viktor and Maria Virkki (née Laamanen), bought the Lampu farm near Sakkola church village from a bankruptcy auction in 1906. At that time, the farm included a general store and an inn. Later, a sawmill and mill were also added to the property. Such a large space became an important training farm, with domestic, livestock and gardening trainees constantly at work.
Despite the appearance of carefree wealth, Tyyne-Kerttu's early life was tinged with grief: She lost her mother at the age of four to tuberculosis, and at the same time sustained a life-long hip injury. The four years that she had to spend in hospital did not discourage the tenacious and talented Sakolan girl, who knew early on what she wanted from her life.
Tyyne-Kerttu graduated as a handicraft teacher in 1929. She continued her studies at Fredrika Wetterhoff's Home Industry College and graduated as a home industry teacher in 1934.
Tyyne-Kerttu Virkki was a teacher of weaving, composition and dyeing at Kehtna Körgem Kutsekool. The school was located in Keava, about 65 km south of Tallinn.
The school trained weaving, economics, and gardening teachers. The purpose of teaching handicrafts was to develop a new sense of nationality and to reduce German influence in interior design styles.
Workshops in Eastern Karelia 1941-1944
Tyyne-Kerttu Virkki was appointed inspector of workshops and handicrafts in eastern Karelia in workshops established in the territories occupied during the Continuation War (1941–44) were promoting employment and commercialisation, as well as sewing and repair work.
During her years in eastern Karelia, Virkki began to study Karelian handcraft traditions more closely. The time she spent in the area thus exercised an important influence on her entire career. From this period originate the approximately 300 objects—most notable of which are käspaikka (embroidered cloths)—that formed the nucleus of her handicraft collection.
Omin käsin magazine 1944-1970
Tyyne-Kerttu Virkki was appointed editor-in-chief of Omin käsin in the spring of 1944, a position which she kept until retiring in 1970. The publication, which first appeared in 1938 as Kotilieden käsityölehti, aimed to preserve handicraft skills and Finnish traditions of handicraft. The magazine also presented numerous ideas for beautifying the home and provided practical instructions, introduced innovations, reported on exhibitions and fairs, organised competitions, and also awarded grants.
The magazine also informed its readers about the handicraft culture of other peoples. The aim was to create aesthetically pleasing, lasting quality under the conditions of economic austerity that prevailed during the period.
Vokki Oy 1947-1990
Tyyne-Kerttu Virkki and Edith Verkkolainen, a manager originally from Viipuri (Vyborg), established Vokki Oy in Helsinki in 1947. The business concept was to preserve old handicraft skills and adapt traditions to the present day, as well as to provide employment opportunities for skilled artists, particularly in the firm’s early years, to employ handcraft artisans displaced from territories Finland had been forced to cede to the Soviet Union after World War II.
Vokki’s first premises were at Unioninkatu 15, where its textile production was also located. Later the shop moved to the Finnish Design Center house at Kasarmikatu 19 and the interior design office to Väinämöisenkatu 31, where the Omin käsin editorial offices were also located.
In 1977 Vokki Oy moved to the building where Virkki lived at Merikannontie 3; its activities then focused on a gallery exhibiting handicrafts.
The Virkki handicraft museum and foundation 1977-
In 1977, after obtaining space together with a gallery on the ground floor of the apartment building at Merikannontie 3, Tyyne-Kerttu Virkki established the Virkki Handicrafts Museum based on the collection that she had assembled. The area was decorated by interior designer Epe Kerminen and included an ‘East Karelian corner’ whose furnishings reproduced traditional architectural decorative motifs. In addition to its permanent exhibition the museum hosted numerous annual celebrations and related programs.
In 1995 the museum moved to Karelia House where dedicated rooms were created for both permanent and special exhibitions, as well as storage facilities. The collection comprises almost 4000 pieces of handicraft art from both Finland and abroad. The museum also has an archive and reference library.
The foundation that bear's Tyyne-Kerttu Virkki's name was established in 1978 with the aim of assuring the continued operation of the museum and preserving Finnish, including Karelian, handicraft, cottage industries, and industrial art and design, as well as promoting the related culture of traditions, customs and form.