Aalto University Archives

Test tiles – Kyllikki Salmenhaara archive

By Marina Valle Noronha
Kyllikki Salmenhaara's ceramic test tiles
Kyllikki Salmenhaara's ceramic test tiles. Photo: Aalto University Archives

Doctoral candidate Marina Valle Noronha, Department of Art,
Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture:

Test tiles – Kyllikki Salmenhaara archive

The regular use of archives emphasises the educational nature present in the act of collecting and archiving things. My interest in Kyllikki Salmenhaara’s archive comes from this guiding (educational) principle, which in this case is also the founding purpose of this collection.

Professor Salmenhaara (b. Tyrnävä, 1915-1981) has been seen as a pioneer of ceramics teaching in Finland, with a thorough knowledge of materials, methods, techniques and theory involved in the ceramic practice. Salmenhaara’s collection was donated to Taideteollinen korkeakoulu, formerly TaiK, today part of Aalto University, in the 1980s. Being myself a doctoral candidate at this university currently researching objects in collections as a topic for my research makes it all the more relatable to look with curiosity at this archive.

What you see on display is a family of items from Salmenhaara’s archive, the grouping of which evolved around tracing some of the documented life and biography of a set of test tiles. The test tiles can at first look like multiples; they are the result of multiple experiments with clays, pigments and glazes. Because of their correlation, they can easily be mistaken for one another. Individually though, they introduce a different story, Salmenhaara’s test tiles present themselves also as independent abstract artworks. In their miniature beauty, these tiny little things have dual identities as both artworks and educational experiments. They are recognised by their multiplicity, but also individuality.

One can refer to this family as a subset collection within its own archive. Part of its strength comes from belonging to a group that shares similar features. The potential the test tiles hold is embedded with chance — an array of possibilities for further studying, not only of ceramics, but also the act of archiving itself.

Re-imagining the Past exhibition Vol. 2 online
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