07 / 12 / 13

Interview with Oili Tuomainen

Interview with Oili Tuomainen

Who are you?

I am Oili Tuomainen, a ”pathological” handicrafts buff and teacher. My original training is woodworks planning. After my studies I have aquired additional training in many other branches of handicrafts through my work.

For how long have you taught at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki, and what do you teach?

I have taught handicrafts at the Institute for serveral years. I have been a teacher for about 20 years, and before that I worked as a guide and teacher for various handicrafts, for exaple with youth programs. At the Institute I have taught, among other things, working with pearls, making silver chains and enameling. My teaching is focused on special techniques and the raw materials of technical work, and precious metals. The materials I use include different kinds of pearls, enamel, horn, fishbone, leather, tin, silver clay and silver thread.

What made you become a teacher?

I became a teacher because I felt the need to share the skills I have. I hope the skills will go forward instead of staying with me. Also interacting with the students is enormously rewarding.

What do you want to give to the student?

Handicrafts skills are a tool the student can use also after the course. I want to share with the students the skills I have and give my students experiences of success. I adjust my guidance according to the student’s skill level and I am able to pay attention to the students as individuals. During the course the student learns a skill, and in addition s/he will receive pointers and ideas for her/his own projects.

“Sometimes a new student joins a class and wonders how s/he will manage. I very often tell the students that there is no other silly question other than ”Is this a silly question?”. The teacher is there for the student. When you have mustered the courage to enter a course, you can ask questions about everything without hesitation! It is important for me that the student can experience feelings of success.”

Oili Tuomainen

handicrafts teacher

Please tell us about your classes and the subjects that you teach

Working with pearls is currently a big part of my teaching here at the Institute and elsewhere. The pearl course entails stringing together pearls made from stone, glass or other materials. With different techniques the pearls are strung into thin thread, yarn or wire. The students have a big say in what the course entails. I have hundreds of different jewellery making instructions. I translate instructions every year, and also make them myself. During the first course class I get to know the students and I map out what they can do and what they have done before. Both beginners and more advanced students can take the course at the same time. I always have multiple instructions to choose from. For example, you could take pearl jewellery courses for 12 semesters in a row and never have to make the same piece of jewellery twice. Most of my classes are workshops, where I teach the student how to work with the raw material, and the student makes the kind of jewellery s/he likes, and does not copy from the work I have modelled.

Why are jewellery making classes so popular?

The Finnish people have clearly opened up to the world of jewellery. People wearing jewellery are no longer considered proud and conceited, and different kinds of jewellery are openly received. The Finnish people are also fond of making things themselves and being able to do so. This comes from our roots and ancestry. In addition to pearl jewellery also ancient and Viking chain stringing, the materials of which are silver or other metals, has become popular in Finland.

One big reason for the popularity is surely the fact that making jewellery is a fairly inexpensive and easy hobby. Making pearl or silver chain jewellery requires a minimum amount of working equipment. No separate workroom is required. You simply need good lighting, a few handicrafts tools and some time. It is possible to make jewellery at the kitchen table while cooking, or watching television. Other techniques, such as enameling and silver clay require special equipment, such as a burning oven.

I have noticed that when working with pearls, people get a break from their everyday life. Meditative work and a sufficiently demanding task to focus on is relaxing. At the Institute the pearl jewellery course is usually held on Friday evenings. The students are really tired after their week but after the class I often hear: ”I feel good now, I feel vigorous and energized”. A handicrafts class on a Friday evening is for many a way to unwind from the working week.

Why is studying at an institute of adult education a good thing?

The Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki has quality handicrafts teaching. The student can choose a course selection, what and when to study. A single course is suffiently long for the student to master a technique well enough to continue the hobby at home. At the courses the student can get to know other handicrafts buffs and receives good pointers for her/his own projects.

What is your motto in life?

”The world is a big learning ground, where you always learn new and interesting things.”

”If I start repeating myself, it is time to change occupation”.

Oili Tuomainen

Handicrafts Teacher

Photos: Joey Lee and Alexey Demidov, Unsplash