Visitors to Helsinki looking for something a little different or a little special to take home should visit Bock House on Senate Square, as it is the perfect place to begin their search. This impressive Empire-styled building facing the majestic Lutheran Cathedral contains a number of Finnish handicraft stores, offering a wide range of traditional, and not so traditional hand-crafted goods. From unique jewellery to the most delightful hand-crafted Christmas ornaments, as well as graphics, art works, ceramics, knitwear, toys and textiles – there is definitely something for all the family to be found among the treasures of Bock House.
Entering via the main entrance on Aleksanterinkatu the first outlet you’ll encounter is Vieno Puustjärvi. Handcrafted wooden souvenirs and tableware are the first things to catch your attention, in particular the attractive place mats, cheese and bread boards, the goblets and cups, and the jewellery boxes. There is also a range of items that have been fashioned from antler and bone, as well as handmade jewellery. For those looking for small souvenirs for friends and relatives, the selection of fridge magnets featuring traditional Finnish figures will likely prove irresistible.
Through the doorway, and you’ve stepped into Jonk Galleria, where there is a wide and diverse range of youthful, Finnish crafts and design. Highly original clothing by Vietto Eco Fashion takes centre stage, as well as designer wear by Miira Zukaleen, knits by Marjut Nordberg, Elina Sopanen and Sari Kippilän – hats, shawls, gloves, leggings and more created by people who know how to keep warm outdoors in winter! There is jewellery by Miira Zukaleen, Nina Lehos, Marina Hirvonsalo, and Hanna Heikinheimo among others, as well as ceramics by Väike Mette. There is also a stand dedicated to the highly original, and utterly captivating, Tuija Leinonen whose dolls and other creations will surely enchant.
Krafti boasts another veritable shopping smörgåsbord. Krafti stocks everything from hand-printed t-shirts to felt pot holders, with a corner devoted to the whimsical prints of Rantakoski Designs – where Urho Kekkonen & Marshal Mannerheim are given the same cultural prominence as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. There is a section of old fashioned forged metal wares which will grab your attention, as well as lots of wooden tableware. Their selection of woolen offerings also continue the outlet’s whimsical vision, with a collection of items with a very sheepish theme. Handmade, scented soaps, seasonal prints both framed and unframed, and some highly original looking jewellery fill up the remaining spaces.
Contrastingly, the Sypressi shop seems almost sedate, but if high quality woolens appeal to you then this is the place for you. Sypressi provides a wide range of wools and yarn for those who like to knit, including Drops alpaca, Lopì, and Pirkanmaa yarn, to name but a few. Not that you’ll notice at first; although a sizable portion of the shop is dedicated to high quality yarns (and an amazing collection of buttons), over half is filled with well-made, hand knitted goods. The range of sweaters for men and women features the kind of traditional Finnish designs that are justifiably considered ‘classics’, and there is plenty of other woolen wear, in rich and vibrant colours for the young.
Another section within Bock House is Taikarasia, a collective that features works by a number of Finnish designers, with a large selection of Finnish handicrafts, art and design, including graphics, jewellery, ceramics, knitwear, toys and textiles. The art of Maarit Kontiainen portrays wondrous forest animals from fairy tales adventuring in enchanting environments. A variety of metal graphics techniques are used, also watercolors and gouache. The original jewellery of Design Tytti Lindström presents themes of variability and movement, with characteristic features of delicate, string-like silver and moving structures within. There are some lovely reindeerskin products and knitwear from Tikkurituote, while Pirjo Saraiva‘s high-quality knitted and felt products include baby hats and shoes, ear muffs, felt hats, wrist warmers and flower accessories. Lorudesign is the work of Susanna Toivanen, whose clothing collection for children uses vintage fabrics and laces, and are all hand made in Finland. The ceramics from Studio Sylvi Lindström are as distinctive as they are charming, featuring her trademark black reindeer motif that seems to harken back to the ancient cave paintings of early man. Design Outi Juusti retails her ‘Poikue’ range of dresses for girls, with bold and colourful floral prints that suggest a time of simplicity and innocence. Karuski is an eco-conscious indie label featuring bags, pouches and jewellery, which gives vintage and repurposed materials a new, fresh form and function. You’ll also find INX handmade glass jewellery, Daxhund ceramics and Soturiprinsessa products.
Towards the rear of Bock House lies Satu Siimes Design, which offers original glassware with clear and functional forms. The inspiration for the forms presented and the colours used are clearly born in nature; the blues of Finland’s many lakes, the shapes of dripping water and seed pods. Again, there is a simplicity of contours that reflects the Finnish grasp of minimalism, and the vases, glasses, and bowls are all beautifully enhanced by their placement on the shelves and tables of the KAINU furniture collection that is also in the shop. In addition to these, Satu Siimes also sells some of the most original looking kettles I’ve ever seen, as well as toys, prints and ornaments for the home.
The last shop in Bock House is the Einari & Elli shop, which sells a beguiling range of original prints, postcards, posters and screen-printed textiles. Sadly, on both my visits I was a little early, and could only admire the goods on offer through the screen, but I’ll certainly be back to have a closer look.
It would be remiss of me were I not to mention one of the most noticeable aspects of browsing and shopping in Bock House, which is the staff. The ladies in charge of each of these outlets were, without exception, extremely helpful without being fussy or intrusive. Friendly, outgoing and, above all, informative, their knowledge of the items on sale was considerable, and no question seems to be too daft. They are also, at the very least, bi-lingual, speaking English as easily as Finnish. I expect many of them have a third or fourth language, which is the norm rather than the exception in Finland.
Finally, having spent time perusing all that’s on offer, and perhaps even buying some of the goods, the perfect spot to relax for a while and enjoy a coffee and snack is the Summer Edge Café tucked away inside Bock House. There is a quiet terrace, open to the sky inside which is open from Monday to Friday from 10am until 6pm, and on Saturdays from 10am until 4pm.
The limitations of a blog being what they are, we have created a image gallery of some of what you can see in Bock House in our Discovering Finland facebook account. See for yourself what Bock House has to offer.