Aalto Art and Design Cases

More than a Basket

Exploring birch bark, its heritage and its future in design.
More than a Basket

... culture lives in us and survives when we are aware of it.

(BBC Documentary: Kenneth Clarke, Civilisations, Season 1, Episode 2, 2018)

When we take things from granted, we believe they are always going to be here.

More than a Basket is a project that seeks to revalue birch bark, a long time used material in Finland. Birch bark goes back to the Sami people, who used this material from cooking with it, like baking bread, to making daily artifacts. Nowadays, it is still being used for making traditional crafts, like baskets, with the same weaving techniques it has always been done. We want to show the potential we had found in this material and how it can present new design opportunities.

Birch bark is easily found in Finland, since birch is an abundant tree here; bark is the outer layer of trees. But is a material that’s almost forgotten, which makes it hard to find information about it and people who know how to work with it, especially in the city and in the South area of the country.

The way to get this material, bark, is by reaping it from the trees, due to the hard winters, it is something that has to be done in the warmer days, around mid summer, so the tree can have the opportunity to grow a new layer of it when winter comes. It must be point out that the tree does not die or suffers any harm in the process, still the process must be done right and by a professional.


This is none of our business.

Head of Employment Services in Lahti, Finland.

With the More than a Basket Project we have been experimenting on this rough, natural and interesting material, trying to find in the process new ways of approaching it, looking at it, feeling it and working with it. We have gone from weaving it to cotton fabrics to dying it with natural pigments. From creating new weaving techniques by bonding it with cotton strings to coating it with different substances. Every added material has created a new experience and a new way of looking at it, becoming a new opportunity for designing more objects than a basket.  

With this project we want to give back the presence and importance birch bark has in culture and the options it can present to design.

All the sudden it is too late and sometimes you don’t feel it.

Paola Antonelli (XXII Triennale di Milano’s presentation theme Broken Nature at Aalto University, 2018).

Experimental Process

These are some of the developed samples. 


    1. Weaved with cotton string 


    2. Weaved and bonded with cotton  


    3. Glued cotton fabric with cuts


    4. Machine sewed cotton wadding


    5. Dyed with natural pigment (berry)


    6. Machine sewed to cotton fabric 


    7. White furniture water base paint


    8. Vinegar coated


    9. Oil coated


    10. Calcium silicate coated 


    11. Water bended


    12. Bark left overs casted with calcium silicate

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