Sunday, March 08, 2009

Women's Month Interviews: Marja-Leena Rathje

Happy International Women's Day! Of course, I have an international interview to go with it.

How do we know each other?
I can't remember how we found each other through our blogs but for me it was our common Finnish connection that immediately attracted me. I loved reading about your trip to Finland and Astuvansalmi (a place that I'm dying to visit too) and how you so generously shared your wonderful photos of the rock art there. As you know, I'm very interested in the ancient art forms of our ancestors, particularly in the Finno-Ugric region. I fell in love with your writings inspired by the Finnish epic Kalevala and anything you write about Finns in your blog.

How would you describe yourself?

It is said to be part of the Finnish nature to find it hard to talk about oneself, especially to brag about oneself and one's accomplishments. Certainly I'm that way, which for an artist who has to "sell" herself, is not a good thing, heh. I'm a quiet introvert but can be very talkative with kindred spirits. I've been an artist since I remember, I even had my own artist's garrett in one house we lived in when I was a child. I think I've done well balancing family, home and my art practice, though sometimes the latter had to take a back seat.

In what part of the world are you located?

I was born in Finland, came to Canada as a child and lived in the cold parts until my husband and I were lucky to end up in the Vancouver area, BC, Canada. We've lived here for 35 years and deeply love the sea, the mountains and the huge trees (thanks to our generous rain). I blame my Nordic blood that I don't like hot climates! I sometimes long for Finland, especially during the fabulous white nights, so then it's time to go for a visit!

Where can we find you on the web?
On my blog: and my latest work can be seen in the "gallery".

What don't people know about you that they ought to know?
I have no secrets so people who know me well know everything, I think. I am an artist, a wife, a mother and grandmother, homemaker, gardener. I have a fairly even temper but can get mad sometimes but usually it's just my family that will see that side of me.

What's the most common mistake people make about you?
That I can be stubborn and very determined to have my way when it's important to me. That's called 'sisu' in Finnish!

What are you most proud of having accomplished so far?
I'm very proud of bringing up three daughters who are wonderful, talented, creative, loving women. I'm proud of my work as an artist.

What ambitions do you have ahead of you?
Never stop making art. Become famous (I can dream, can't I?).

What's the best compliment you've ever received?
That I am a very good artist and mother.

If something great happens to you, how do you celebrate?
Tell my husband and family and closest friends, maybe go out for a celebratory dinner.

What's your best method for coping with stress?
Some quiet time by myself, I seem to need that every day, or to go with my husband on a 'retreat' to our favourite spot on the westcoast of Vancouver Island.

What makes you laugh?

Good comedies, my granddaughters, time with our dearest friends.

What makes you cry?
Sad stories and movies, saying goodbye, I can even cry when I'm joyously happy!

What do you love?
My husband of 40 years, our family, our unique home that we built, this lovely part of the world, almost anything hand made, art, opera, architecture, archaeology, water, trees, gardens....

What do you loathe?
Rude, inconsiderate people. Noise.

What's sexy?
Naturalness, authenticity, intelligence, warmth and gentleness all in one.

What's the best advice you were ever given?
Follow your heart.

How should people be spending their money?
Buy art! Support the artists and craftspeople in your community.

Which woman/women have inspired you?
All the women in my life, especially my brave mother and mother-in-law who emigrated from their homelands, my daughters, my women artist friends.

If I gave you a million dollars, what would you do?

Pay myself to continue my artmaking and have shows. Put a large portion away for retirement. Finish the work on our house. Help out our daughters. Buy art made by friends. A few treats like a trip somewhere.

Kiitos paljon for being part of this celebration: you are an amazing artist.
Thank you for inviting me to join this celebration, Kate. You are fabulous too! Hope to meet one day.
Me, too!

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