Eero Hintsanen‘s work are incredible objects from a time long ago forgotten, like pieces of precious metals straight from the hands of Valhalla deities. Even the woman in his jewelry editorials are powerful goddesses, commanding the elements to bend to their will and beauty. And Eero’s jewelry perfectly compliments this upholding of grace, strength, and other-worldly artistry. The curves of his collections hark to the exquisite wild landscape of Finland; one cannot help but think of snow, stone, and bone resting in the peaceful but solemn ancient forests of his homeland.
You graduated from the School of Goldsmithing at the Lahti Institute of Design in 1998. How did you know that metalworking was something you were interested in, and do you remember the first time you deeply appreciated a piece of jewelry?
I knew already at the beginning of 90’s that craft, art and design might be the field for me. I was very interested about history but I cannot still to this day remember names or numbers or anything else useful I have read and studied, so studies and professions that rely on good memory were not a viable option for me. But I can remember smells, sounds, colors, shapes and materials, and I do have a vivid imagination that can process the often very dark and gloomy history of Finland into the pieces I do. So one might say that way I, and my mind, works pushed me towards this career. After basic education I got accepted to study metal, ceramics and jewelry in different cities, and the school in Lahti had the reputation of being toughest to get accepted and also best resources so I decided to study jewelry. But I’m pretty sure my works would look the same even if the material had been steel or ceramics or anything else.
For me personally a strong eye opener was the exhibition by professor Björn Weckström in Retretti art centre in Punkaharju 1986. This was the first time I realized that you are allowed to use your imagination and create wonderful objects that are not just something practical you need in your every day life. The exhibition was held underground in caves excavated into solid bedrock and the whole setting, his works, both jewelry and sculpture, the sounds and the overall feeling of the exhibition left a strong imprint to my mind.
I have been lucky enough to meet Mr. Weckström later on on several occasions including a tour at his house and I still consider him to be one of the very few people I truly admire both because of his works and being a charismatic and genuinely nice person.
Your jewelry brings to mind bending spines and frosty winter leaves, there is also a sense of ancient mysticism and the magic of occultist themes. What draws you to these, and other, aspects of life?
For me these shapes and inspirations are what I am and how I was brought up in the Finnish countryside in the 70’s. And yes, I’m old.
There are many people who work with similar macabre themes, but in my opinion there are too many repeating the same pieces and symbols without any depth in them. I do understand the commercial aspect of those pieces but I just feel strongly that if I make another miniature human skull it doesn’t change or improve or create anything new and worthy. But this is just me, and how I see this world. I personally never use any real bones or skulls in my works, even if the references are very clear to anatomy and to darker aspects of human life. Instead I filter the feelings and memories from my childhood into pieces that are a bit difficult to categorize and define.
We used to collect bones and branches and stones that had certain appealing shapes, and this developed the aesthetics that I am drawn to constantly. These pieces and shapes and ideas are in me and pieces of jewelry just give them a physical form. But what I chase is not just the objects. I always look at them as being just a part of the story, so photos and videos are how everything is brought to life and how the pieces become ready in my mind. My ideal world is a collection of dark and short video clips played in slow-motion. Those who get it, get it, for the rest it might sound a bit strange. And while occultism and again many bit too trendy directions are not important to me, I do enjoy investigating and reading the history of Finland especially the folk stories and beliefs that existed before Christianity and long after that too. Finland has one of the richest heritage of stories and fairytales while we stayed for a long time in the outskirts of Europe keeping many things, practices and beliefs that linked the everyday life to our surroundings. Sulkava, where I lived my childhood, has an unbelievable history. There are traces of houses from thousand years ago in the field literally hundreds of meters away from where I lived. There is also a legend of ghost-lights, or will-o’-the-wisps, burning in the field next to our house. My neighbour has seen it, but never got the gold the story tells lies in the ground. So many stories.
Jewelry making and smithing are very time consuming and detail oriented work, and there seems to be a plethora of ways to create a piece. What is your working process like, and how long does it take to complete something like the Spine Backpiece?
The beauty of this profession is that it gives you every single day an opportunity to really focus on your work and achieve a state of flow that makes you forget time and how much your hands hurt, or how tired your eyes get. Often the work is almost meditative. I play music and just work hours and hours till the brink of exhaustion. But yes, it is often really slow. And until you hit big you really shouldn’t count the hours. You just need to work and practice and experiment and then work some more, and eventually the creations will be noticed. I sometimes call my work as the worlds most expensive hobby. But this is just something I need to do, so I don’t fight it.
I do draw a lot when I start to make new unique pieces but the plans always develop when I move from drawings to actual pieces. I do most of my works from wax that I carve by hand and I like this way of working the best because it gives me freedom to test and adjust everything endlessly. If the wax is not good I just break or cut a piece away from it and replace it with something better. I also cast all my works myself so I have total control of the whole process. It is important for me to really understand and feel the piece through these steps. But in general I don’t analyze so much what I do while I do it. I make pieces and then determine later on do I like them or not, do they deserve to exist or will I just melt them away.
To make a big piece takes often a couple of weeks, but lately I have tried to do also pieces that can be produced faster in a small editions that are possible to sell to my fans in a reasonable price range. I know many people who would like to own a 1 kilo silver crown, but not that many who can actually afford one if it is completely unique work that takes one month to finish. But I keep adding more wearable pieces to my store so people can actually own and enjoy my works, not just admire the pictures. Jewelry should be worn, without a person that carries the piece we are only half way there.
Your global jewelry company, Chao & Eero, is a real love story! What is it like working with your partner, and how does the collaboration affect both of your works?
We have the brand Chao & Eero that designs and produces simple wearable pieces. I would call the style Nordic elegance and these works are made for a much larger audience that for us is mainly abroad. These works and this brand we do together, but the artistic sides are our own. For the unique works we use our own styles and techniques so we don’t collaborate too much with them. Naturally we are the best advisers for each other, so whenever there is a question or problem it is very simple to ask the other one “What do you think?” and get the right answer.
But even if our artistic works are very different we think them being like a day and night, two styles that compliment each other perfectly. We often exhibit together and our works really work well next to each other. Our work and life is bound together and the rhythm we follow is to work in our studio non-stop long days and then again travel according the projects like fairs and exhibitions. This way of living fits us and it would be very difficult to change it. We love each other, and our work. Simple.
Lookbooks and video or film are often used to capture the spirit of a jewelry collection. What is the process like creating the type of visual that shows your work to its best advantage?
I always hunt that perfect moment, and pictures and films are the ways to capture them. When I make a new piece I know how it should be presented, but I have also learned to trust the professionals I work with, and respect and embrace their input. It is exciting to work with someone not knowing what the end result might be. Sometimes it is not what I thought, more often it exceeds my expectations.
I am really blessed that many talented people have been interested to work with me and create something beautiful around the pieces of jewelry. I do collect material, mainly on Pinterest, both for inspiration and also as an example of what has already been done. It is a brilliant tool to explain what is the atmosphere or the direction I would like to take with the shoot. It helps me to communicate my ideas. Just like my jewelry, I don’t plan everything to last detail. When a shoot goes well you should just let the magic happen without micromanaging everything. Creative people know that way to create something new is to leave room for surprises.
Are there any future projects or collaborations you’re looking forward to in particular for this new year?
This coming summer we will exhibit, in several exhibitions, the new pieces that will be done during the spring, and I hope these works will create again some new interesting collaboration and projects in the end of the year. I have to say I’m a bit shy to approach people and ask if they would like to do a project with me. I’m extremely introvert and in a typical Finnish style modest of what I do. But I have grown to realize that the way forward for me are the collaborations with fashion designers, photographers and filmmakers and with professionals in different fields who share and understand my aesthetics at the highest level possible. I have a list of people who I would like to work with or who I’d like to wear my pieces but I like to keep that as a secret.