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Polkka Jam prints Finnish everyday life on recycled materials

Recently, Sami Vähä-Aho and Kristiina Haapalainen have found their Anne Paloheimo

Polkka Jam, a Finnish design agency, prints images inspired by Nordic nature and the everyday life of Finns on recycled materials, to the delight of people in both Finland and abroad.

Unique images are what make a brand stand out. That is the credo of Kristiina Haapalainen and Sami Vähä-Aho, the founders of Polkka Jam, an agency specialising in the ecological manufacture of prints and in illustration design. Their illustrations have already found their way onto the products of a number of Finnish and foreign co-operation partners.

Ecological local production in Finland

It was the year 1999. Textile design student Haapalainen and graphic design student Vähä-Aho met and started dating. The couple shared the desire to do creative work, and both felt that illustrating would be a natural way for them to express themselves.

The young designer couple set out to follow their dream by printing gig posters for underground bands using silk screen printing. After designing their first prints together they established their own brand. In 2002, they created their first jointly designed pattern, Laulupuu.

Over the years, the offerings have varied: in addition to its flagship paper products, the company has manufactured, for example, quilted jackets, duvet covers and jigsaw puzzles.

The couple design their prints themselves and give preference to local producers in everything they do. The company manufactures its ecological products from 100 per cent recycled paper in Finland so that it can tell its customers their origin.

Everyday life in Finland with coffee cups and garden parties

For Polkka Jam, it is all about the images – that is where the whole product design process starts.

The illustrations are inspired by old Eastern European animations and poster art, Nordic graphic design and American applied graphic art from the 1950s.

“Our illustrations feature coffee cups, gramophones, cats, books, kites, cherry trees and garden parties,” Haapalainen and Vähä-aho list.

Inspiration can be found anywhere. “We constantly explore our environment and are often inspired by small everyday things and insights,” the designers say.

Finnish concepts and objects are the themes that find their way into the illustrations of the couple who live on Kimito island. Nordic nature and the variations of the seasons have also left their mark on their designs.

Global demand

In addition to its own collection, Polkka Jam also designs illustrations for several Finnish and foreign companies. Polkka Jam has, for example, designed illustrations for the gift cards of the American retail giant Target. In addition, the Finnish design company’s products are sold in boutiques across Europe and they have distributors in Japan and South Korea.

Alongside Europe, the company’s main market areas are the US and Japan. According to the company’s founders, distribution and co-operation agreements are often initiated at the foreign customers’ suggestion, and the agreements give rise to new work opportunities.

The company’s objective going forward is to increase co-operation with international customers.

And of course: “To do as many illustrations as possible.”

Polkka Jam’s offering includes ecologically manufactured paper products from postcards to posters and notepads Image: Polkka Jam
By: Heidi Höök