Petronella Grahn sees fairytales in children’s eyes.
“Children’s eyes look like they’re shining,” she explains, “like they’re full of imagination without any of the limitations adults have grown aware of. We should all find a way to get closer to that feeling.”
Grahn remembers well how it felt to know no boundaries. When she was eight, she was confident that she would learn to fly if only she practised hard enough. All the hours spent trying weren’t wasted, although she never succeeded in her attempts.
“I had so much fun,” she recalls laughingly. “In a child’s imagination, everything is possible.”
However, these days children are playing less and less, especially outdoors. For years, experts around the world have been warning that the physical, social and mental benefits of playing will be missed out on, if kids stay indoors spending time with gadgets and screens.
To Grahn, this sounds like a global tragedy. Her way of fighting back is Pomenia, a world full of fairytales, magic, imagination and shining eyes.
Two years drafting and drawing
Grahn first introduced her fairytale world to the public through Tinttu.com, a children’s fashion collection, and kept the stories of Pomenia to herself for over twenty years. She shared the tales of the fairy dreamland with her six children as wonderful bedtime stories, teaching them important lessons and creating magical games.
Tinttu.com was born out of Grahn’s urge to create colourful and imaginative clothes for her own kids, designed to bring a bit of fairytale to everyday life.
“I can’t stand kids’ rooms that look like they’re for tiny grown-ups, and the same applies to clothes,” she says. “A child is far too beautiful to be an adult!”
Whilst running the shop, the stories kept on growing. In the land of Pomenia, a little boy is helping fairies prevent a wizard from stealing all the laughter and joy in the world. The core message revolves around the courage to be true to oneself and follow what feels right, and the characters of the imaginary universe are present in Tinttu.com’s collections.
A few years ago, Grahn happened to run into an investor, who agreed that Pomenia should be shared with everyone. Since then, she hasn’t seen much daylight: she first learnt how to use digital graphic design tools and then created digital versions of her paintings. Two years were needed for Petronella to write down all the stories of Pomenia and bring all her characters to life.
A safe escape
Currently, Tinttu.com is taking a break, so that Grahn can fully focus on Pomenia. Later this year, the story will start travelling around the world in the form of books, a mobile app and a board game. On top of this, there are clothes, curtains and accessories that reflect on the colours familiar from the magical world.
“There is so much nonsense in mobile apps for children,” Grahn says. “My aim was to create a game that’s not so much about teaching cognitive skills as it is about encouraging kids to explore the world of fairytales, adventures and imagination.”
Initially, the stories will be available in Finnish and English, but German and Spanish will follow suit as soon as possible. Grahn’s idea is to find partners and licensees that share Pomenia’s values and ambitions.
With over two decades of experience as a storyteller, artist, entrepreneur and mother of six, she’s confident there are other parents who are just as frustrated with what’s being marketed for children in this day and age. She points out that children have no idea there are different colours for boys and girls – until someone tells them so.
“Children should be seen as children, not as targets for marketing. Let them be little.”
However, she’s not battling gender roles. Grahn’s goal is to bring people of all ages closer to their true self through fairytales and offer a safe escape from everyday life for those who need it.
“The best thing about imagination is that it makes you forget who and how old you are and what your role in this world is,” she says. “A good fairytale not only teaches kids to read and write, but it also takes them on an adventure that gives a lesson about empathy and ethics. I can’t imagine what could be more important than that.”