By Wendy Elliott
Printmaker Kristiina Lehtonen moved from Finland to Nova Scotia over two years ago and she finds she can relate to this province’s round hills and lonely trees.
The Port Williams resident currently has an exhibition on at Jack’s Gallery in Wolfville. It will remain up until early February.
Lehtonen has been a printmaker for over 20 years. She was also well-known as an illustrator for books, reports and children’s magazines.
Her whimsical art has been exhibited all over the world. There are touches of humour and insight in her prints that have a universal appeal. Her dream series, for example, uses a bubble format to show the aspirations of each central character.
For a decade, Lehtonen operated a gallery in a 400-year-old village that is popular among artists, artisans and designers. Especially in summer, she said, Fiskars is a tourist destination.
“It is a place like the Annapolis Valley,” she says. “A world heritage site. A wonderful place.”
Lehtonen and her husband, Teemu, immigrated to Nova Scotia with the future of their three sons in mind. While studying education and theology in Belgium, he began to contemplate moving.
Looking at the rigid direction Finland was heading in, Teemu said he felt his “vote had become meaningless, so I decided to vote with my feet.”
Although they contemplated Toronto and Vancouver, Lehtonen says the fishermen, cliffs and ocean of Nova Scotia drew her here. She packed her press in a container, along with the family furniture, and all five relocated.
Learning to function in another language is still a challenge. The boys - David, 13, Titus, 11 and Kaius, nine - “had it hardest with a new school and a new language.”
Lehtonen’s English is improving and she is beginning to meet other printmakers. Recently, she had a booth at the Nova Scotia Designer Craftsmen show in Halifax.
She primarily uses etching and aquatint. A print that looks light and airy actually requires long hours with a copperplate varnishing and corroding.
In her basement studio in the family home, she works with various sized plates and aims to tell stories. Utilizing the heavy press that she had made at a college in Finland, the end result is a series of multi-colored hand made prints. That whole process is pure craft, and the method is basically the same for hundreds of years.