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Features / Illustration

Show & Tell: Lotta Nieminen walks us through the most important objects in her Manhattan studio

First published in Printed Pages Spring 2014

Words by

James Cartwright

Photography by

Laurel Golio

Lotta Nieminen is a Finnish illustrator and designer living in New York. She’s had stints working at Trendi, RoAndCo and Pentagram but now freelances full-time from her Manhattan studio, creating work for the likes of Hermés, The New York Times and Monocle. She’s also recently been named as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 – no big deal. We went to snoop around her workspace to find out about the design objects that she holds dear. The selection was surprisingly modest…

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1. Micron 03 from Pearl Paint, New York

I’ve used this same pen since high school – not this exact one, obviously – and if I run out I’ll always make sure to have a new one on hand. It needs to be an 03. My Micron addiction started with the 01 but I’m not careful enough to use that thin a pen anymore. I’ve had this specific one for roughly two months but a similar one for the past 10 years. I use them mostly to make notes (for sketches I use pencils).

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2. Pink mini greeting cards + round coloured stickers from Paper Presentation and Kynis, the paper store at the University of Art and Design Helsinki

When I send miscellaneous things to people in the mail (contracts, samples, cheques, receipts to the accountant, photos to my grandma) I usually want to include a little note just to say hello. I previously used old business cards (I haven’t gotten my act together and printed new ones in five years). They still had my old Finnish phone number on them that I would just cross out – not very professional! I came across these tiny little note cards a while back, while looking for paper samples, and have been using them since. The colour makes me happy and I like that it can only fit a very limited amount of words; it makes it short, fast and sweet, like a handwritten Tweet.

For mailing posters or closing wrapped gifts I use these circular stickers that I write a little blurb on. I bought an insane amount of them when I was still at university; so much that I still have enough to use them today. I haven’t been back to that shop in five years.

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3. Citibikekey from Citibike

I gave in to the Citibike craze about four months ago. I’ve had to have a small break due to the snowstorms in New York, but there’s nothing better than getting to places on time when you can hop on a bike coming out of a subway and get to where you’re going in a minute. Biking in New York used to stress me out because I lived in constant fear that my bike would be stolen if I left it outside, but it’s always been my favourite way of commuting (closely followed by taking the East River ferry).

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4. Cire Trudon scented candle (Abd El Kader) from a friend

This specific candle could basically be replaced with any number of other scented candles because I’ve become an addict. I’ve somehow gotten to a point where I tell myself I can justify paying an unreasonable amount of money for a pretty jar that smells nice. This specific one is amazing and I’ve been trying to save it. I think a scent is an underrated way of completely revamping a space. Scents are inspiring and always get me in a good mood. There’s a certain beautiful vanity to scented candles that make a home feel luxurious even when you haven’t had the chance to clean up a mess.

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5. Moleskine notebook from McNally Jackson (black) + Kinokuniya (red), New York

I’m almost out of pages in my old black Moleskine and eager to scribble in my new red one. I can never get myself to throw the old ones away, even though I use my notebooks mostly for notes as I’m not much of a sketcher. They’re not very pretty (I only have nice handwriting if I really try) and the content’s not personal or emotional, but they’re a nice way of preserving certain segments of my life.

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6. Droopy, spoiled studio plant from West Elm Market, New York

This plant was a spontaneous purchase from West Elm Market on the way to the studio. I was supposed to take it home, but liked it so much at the studio that it stayed. I like having a plant at the studio, it makes the desk feel cosy. Funnily enough I take a lot better care of the studio plant than I do of the ones at home. This one gets to bask in the sun all day, look at the Manhattan skyline, and since it’s right under my nose and I’m prone to procrastinate at least a couple of times a day, I never forget to water it. I’m pretty happy I’ve managed to keep a plant alive for almost a year!

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7. Handcuff necklace from Lotta’s little sister

I got this clever Erica Weiner necklace from my little sister as a present a couple of years ago. Sometimes it’s a bummer to be an ocean apart from my family, and I like the fact that I carry around something that reminds me of them – even if it’s a funny pair of handcuffs. I like to wear jewellery with a story. I keep it close because it reminds me of my sister, and because it looks good – obviously!

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8. Maira Kalman, The Principles of Uncertainty, from a friend

I got this Maira Kalman book from a New York friend a couple of years before I moved here. He thought I would love it. I somehow managed not to be acquainted with Maira Kalman’s work before, although I was very familiar with that of her husband, Tibor. I’ve been enamoured with her imagery ever since. When I moved to New York from Helsinki I gave away most of my books, just putting the most precious ones into storage in my parents’ attic. However, The Principles of Uncertainty came with me all the way to New York. There’s something soothing in the Proustian stream of consciousness in the storytelling, and Kalman’s sincere observations about life. The book is not only a wonderful read, it’s also of use if I’m really stuck with illustration work; the way Kalman uses colour is a constant inspiration to me.