Training Week in Helsinki, Finland

May 2nd – 6th, 2016
Training Week Programme

The second training week was hosted by Craft Teacher Education of the Faculty of Educational sciences in University of Helsinki. The weather was exceptionally warm at this time of the year, and despite of busy programme we had the change to enjoy springtime Helsinki too!

Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Enjoying the sun in Helsinki. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

First, Sirpa introduced the Craft Teacher Education. It is a master-level subject teacher education, as master’s degree is required from teachers in Finland. The education gives qualification to teach in primary and secondary schools, as well as in adult education. Studies include crafts and design courses and teacher’s pedagogical studies which includes teaching practice periods in schools and in other, informal environments.

Mari presented the workshop process in elderly care centre and related research activities. The workshops are designed and guided by craft student teachers who are performing their teaching practice in elderly care settings. The planning of the workshops with the student teachers begun in January and the actual workshops have been carried out in the last few weeks. Research data has been collected by e.g. video recording the workshops and interviewing the student teachers.

See Mari’s presentation of activities below.

The Workshops: Planning & Researchsee the slideshow
Handmade Wellbeing team
All together again! Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Expert Lecturer & Workshop

In the afternoon, we had a visiting expert lecturer Marika Sarha from Finnish Pensioners’ Federation. Marika is the project manager of Life with Hands, a current project aiming to inspire older people to be creative and use arts and crafts methods in voluntary work and clubs. During the project, national courses are arranged to educate volunteers about creativity and different kind of methods and techniques for them to utilize in their voluntary work. Also events have been arranged, for example a magnificent Cow Parade as part of the cultural theme of the federation’s annual meeting.

The idea of the Life with Hands -project is that being creative and making by hands are for everyone. Creativity doesn’t vanish when you get older, but instead, should be encouraged.

See Marika’s presentation below.

Life with Hands. Welfare and participation from crafts.see the slideshow
Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Marika Sarha presented the Life with Hands -project. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

After lecture Marika decided it is time for some hands-on action. Marika and her collegue in the project, Johanna Kivelä, guided a workshop where we got a chance to make a collaborative rya wall hanging! The idea was to tie strips of cotton tricot (this material is commonly used to weave rag rugs) around wooden rods. This was a modern version of traditional Finnish handicraft, rya rug, with rougher materials. Traditionally rya rugs are made with thin wool yarns. Making is easier in bigger scale which makes this suitable for anyone, from children to older people!

Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Tracy & Andrea working on the collaborative rya wall hanging. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

Looks like a lot of fun!

Later during the Handmade Wellbeing project, the Kunstlabor artists adapted this rough rya rug technique in their workshops.

Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Ready! The result of collaboration presented by Jenny & Madeleine. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Observing the Workshops in Care Centre

On Tuesday morning we headed for the elderly care centre to observe the workshops guided by craft student teachers and to learn about elderly care in this centre in general. The names of the care setting and the student teachers are not mentioned due to research ethics; they were promised anonymity.

All the observers received instructions about things to pay attention to, see below.

Observing workshopsee the instructions
Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Dyeing wool and yarn with Kool Aid drink. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

This is a big care setting with residential departments and day care. There is also a service centre, open for retired and unemployed persons living at home. Service centre provides many different kind of activities, for example study circles, physical exercise, social and health counselling. They have a handicraft space, in which some craft courses are arranged, but it is also open for independent projects. You can find weaving looms and sewing machines here. So, just pop in and start your project!

Two student teachers ran a one-day workshop in service centre as part of their teaching practice. The theme was dyeing wool and yarn with Kool Aid – soft drink powder. The participants seemed to be excited about this workshop, and it looked like fun. All the wonderful colours!

After service centre we split in two groups. The other group was first observing the CD weaving workshop in day care, while the other one was touring the care centre area with one of the head nurses.

The idea of this workshop was to weave different kind of yarns of one’s own choice over an old CD. Everyone could make as many as they want, and in the final session the CDs would be combined in to a wall hanging, that is to be hanged on wall in day care. This was the 5th session, the one before the last one. The participants were older people with memory disorders. They live at home, but attend day care once or twice a week.

Read more about the workshops here.

Photo: Sirpa Kokko
CD weaving workshop. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Traditional Rya Rug Workshop

After lunch in care centre we returned to university, where craft student teacher Saila Hellsten gave a presentation and a workshop about the traditional rya rug (or ryijy in Finnish). Earlier we had tried making a modern adaptation of rya with Marika, but this time we learned about the history of rya in Finland.

See Saila’s presentation here.

rya rug workshop
Sewing small samples of rya rug. Craft student teacher Saila Hellstén guides. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

Traditional rya rugs can be made either by weaving with looms or sewing on sparse fabric, and for a short workshop, sewing is obviously an easier option!

The theme of the workshop was forest. Each one could decide, what does the forest represent to them; something scary, fun, or both.

Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Sewing rya rug. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

Many older people have made rya rugs, as they are common decorative textiles in Finnish homes. It is very valued and so are the people who manage to finish making a rya rug. Traditionally rya rugs are quite big (appr. 125x165cm) and it’s a lot of work to finish one.

Handmade Wellbeing rya rug workshop
Good work! The theme of the workshop was forest, this is a colourful one. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

It is common that pupils in Finland sew small rya rugs in craft lessons in comprehensive school.

Handmade Wellbeing rya rug workshop
Reflection after the workshop. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Crafts in Finnish Comprehensive School

Wednesday morning was for reflection session about the workshops in care centre the day earlier. Read about the reflections later on this page.

In the afternoon we explored craft education in Finnish comprehensive school, and visited one of the teacher training schools of University of Helsinki, Helsingin normaalilyseo. In Finland, the school subject crafts is compulsory in years 1-7 and optional in years 8-9. All pupils learn to work with different materials and techniques, for example textile, wood, metal and plastic. Arts and crafts have a strong position in Finnish school system, because they develop the pupils’ personality and both artistic and motor skills. This kind of craft education is very rare and almost unique in the world. Similar craft education, where pupils learn to work with many different materials, is also given in other nordic countries.

Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Handmade Wellbeing partners visit craft class for hard materials in Helsingin Normaalilyseo. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

There are separate classrooms for soft and hard materials. The classroom for soft materials is equipped with sewing machines and everything that is needed for sewing, fabric dyeing, yarn work or decorating fabric. Also materials for designing, such as papers and paints, are available. All material in the classroom is free for pupils, but an essential part of craft education is to learn to use materials wisely and not to waste. Recycling, upcycling and remaking is popular and encouraged, and also the lesson we observed was about remaking fashion and clothes.

Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Clothes design by draping newspapers at Helsingin Normaalilyseo craft class for soft materials. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

Another craft classroom is for hard materials, such as wood and metal, with all kinds of machines. Our guests from partner countries were amazed that pupils are allowed to use the machinery. Safety education is an essential part of craft education!

In the afternoon we also visited Design Museum, which has a permanent exhibition about Finnish design from 19th century until today. At the moment, there were also contemporary exhibitions presenting the work of Eero Aarnio, a famous Finnish designer, and Daniel Palillo, a contemporary Finnish fashion designer.

Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Machinery in craft class for hard materials. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Cultural Activities

Thursday was for cultural activities. In the morning, the partners visited cultural sites of their choice, such as museums: Finnish National Museum, Finnish National Gallery Ateneum and Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.

In the afternoon we visited the fortress of Suomenlinna, which is a Unesco World Heritage site. Work on this fortress begun in 1748, during the Swedish era in Finland. The fortress is located on a group of islands in front of Helsinki, and it is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, definitely a must-see in Helsinki! There are actually residents on the islands, so it’s not only a tourist attraction.

Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Handmade Wellbeing Team in the Fortress of Suomenlinna. Photo: Handmade Wellbeing

There are museums on the island, as well as arts and crafts galleries and shops, restaurants and cafés. Locals like to come to Suomenlinna on a sunny day and have a picnic. For first time visitors, it is popular and recommendable to walk the main route across the fortress, along which all the main sights are located.

Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Ready, aim, fire! Old guns in Suomenlinna. Photo: Sirpa Kokko
Reflections & developing the Educational Model/Handbook

In the reflection session on Wednesday we discussed our notions of the CD workshop that we observed on Tuesday. First, the training week participants were divided in pairs or small groups, and they discussed for half an hour, based on the paper they had received on Tuesday prior the workshop in care setting. After this, we gathered together to discuss with the whole group. The discussion was audio recorded for research data.

workshop reflectionsee the instructions
Handmade Wellbeing Helsinki
Woven CDs for the wall hanging. Photo: Sirpa Kokko

The suitability of the CD weaving technique for older people was difficult to evaluate because we had not tried it ourselves, only observed. The materials were handy and the idea was nice. However, the materials and equipment could be bigger which would make them easier to handle. For example, bigger plates like LPs could be used to this. These would be more familiar for older participants, as CDs were strange items for them. Listening to music could be incorporated to this activity, and even be the theme of the workshop. Also the needles could be bigger, and yarns thicker. One could use different materials, for example plastic and fabric strips instead of yarns. However, it depends on the person, what they prefer. A wide range of materials to allow personal choices and experimenting would be good.

The observers wondered, who had decided the outcome (the wall hanging) and if the participants knew, what the outcome would be. A feedback session in the beginning and at the end of each session would help the participants see, what they are working towards and what has been achieved so far. This could be done for example by looking at each piece and designing together the composition of the wall hanging. The participants of this workshop have memory issues, so it was true that they probably did not remember what they had made in the previous session, or what the outcome would be.

The room was very appropriate for this activity, even though it was noticed that sitting around a large table makes it difficult to take contact to the other side of the table. The amount of facilitators and staff compared to the number of participants was very good. There were three student teachers and one staff member with six participants, so it was possible to give one-on-one guidance and help. However, it was remarked that having this many facilitators would be impossible if the care setting would have to pay for the activity. Student teachers don’t get paid when they are conducting their teaching practice.

Our cultural backgrounds effected the way we interpreted interaction in this workshop. For some of us, there was enough interaction in the workshop and the atmosphere seemed nice, calm and natural. However, others thought there was too little interaction and people seemed isolated. Some paid attention to that there was very little interaction between the older participants. They were mostly quiet, concentrating on their work or communicating with the students who helped them. In some cultures, it is more acceptable to be quiet. Making crafts is often solitary activity, where speech is not necessary, sometimes it might even distract concentration. However, it is nice to be together and make something, even without talking.

Interaction could be encouraged by trying to create a more collaborative atmosphere. For some observers, it seemed that this workshop was more about teaching and learning, where the student teachers demonstrated the ‘right ways’ of making, and the participants didn’t have much freedom to play or experiment. This could be developed into more artistic and playful approach, where the facilitators do not act as assistants, but co-creators.

As a conclusion, there can be different aims for a workshop: to concentrate on making crafts, or to communicate. Both are appropriate aims, depending on the group and the situation. However, there are different ways to achieve these.

Friday was reserved for working collaboratively on the Handmade Wellbeing Handbook, which gathers together the shared expertise and learning outcomes in this project. Working session was audio recorded for research data.

Educational model design sessionsee the instructions

We started with discussing together, what are the most important aspects that should be considered when working with older people. These aspects were gathered in an educational model mindmap. We came up with eight aspects:

  • The relationship between the facilitator and the older people
  • Getting to know the target group
  • The awareness of learning targets
  • Good practice and examples
  • The infrastructure and economic resources
  • Cultural context and background
  • Professional skills in arts and crafts
  • Society and how to influence the decision makers

After this, we continued working in small groups. Each group worked on the content of one of these aspects. Then we gathered together to share our views and to complement each aspect. See the results of these discussions in the mindmap and the document below.

The development of the educational model and the handbook will continue in the next training weeks in Graz and Viljandi.

Handmade Wellbeing educational model
First Draft of Educational Model
Educational Model after Helsinki training weeksee the document