Finnish Folk Art Museum

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Dedicated in 1974, Paloheimo created the Finnish Folk Art Museum and Finlandia Gardens on the Fension Mansion's grounds.

In 1910, Frederick Roehrih designed a Swiss chalet-like garage out of redwood for Arthur H. Flemming; this house was later moved to the Fenyes estate by Yrjo Paloheimo and now stands beside the Fenyes mansion. It originally was at Arthur Fleming's Wigmore Estate in Pasadena, then when that estate was sold it was cut in half and converted to a garage on Orange Grove Boulevard. It went up for sale in 1949 and Yrjo bought it and moved it to its current site to be the Finnish Folk Art Museum (a recreation of a tupa), guest quarters and sauna.

Paloheimo filled the building with farmhouse furnishings from various Finnish provinces and Consul Paloheimo did much of the stonework and gardening himself. In 1974, it was dedicated as the Finnish Folk Art Museum.


The sauna is the first structure of a home to be completed; whenever possible, it faces west so that sunset may be enjoyed.

Saunas were traditionally used on Saturday evenings after the week's labor and before Sunday. Urban apartments had saunas that were reserved through the building manager. Males sauna first, followed by females. Family can sauna together but separation of the sexes is mandated at all other times. The saying "one behaves in the sauna as in church" describes the perspective on well behavior on the sauna.

Time stands still in the sauna. Sausage and beer are roasted in or near the sauna. Before hospitals were common, babies were birthed in the sterile and warm sauna.

finnish folk art museum sauna

finnish folk art museum sauna

finnish folk art museum sauna


finnish folk art museum hearth and cabinet
A tupa is the main room in a traditional Finnish farm home and serves as a kitchen, dining room, living room and even bedroom.

Most of the furniture comes from Pohjanmaa (Ostrobothnia), a coastal province in northwestern Finland where peasant architecture and decoration peaked at the start of the 19th century. The Museum was dedicated in 1974.

The rag rugs (rasymatto) throughout are the kind used to keep an Ostrobothnian home warm and cozy.

Cupboard 17th century

A viilikehlo for storing dishes and foods, particularly wooden containers for cultured sour milk.

finnish folk art museum sausage horn

Horn is used to stuff sausage.

finnish folk art museum bark cup

Birch-bark cup. Used for collecting a variety of items, including berries found in the forest.

finnish folk art museum salt crusher

Salt crusher, ~1270 CE.

Next to fireplace include: birch bark strainer; candle holder; saw; wooden brace with bit missing; wooden milk or water ladles; laundry paddle; very rare 150 year old birch bark rope and a smaller rope of hemp. On shelf over hutch are birch baskets, yogurt dishes and a pine basket.

Corner Cabinet, 1819

Shows an early Renaissance style influence.

Yard Stick
The "yard" stick is about 2 ft long.

Walking Stick
Walking stick is the root of an adler type bush and its bumps are the result of a disease.

Birch bark horn is for caling cows.

Berry Basket
Birch bark berry basket.

Pin cushion

finnish folk art museum fungus pin cushion

Pin cushion is a real fungus from birch trees. This one is from the Paloheimo estate in Finland.

finnish folk art museum leili canteen buttermilk
Leila canteen

Leili canteen, 1877
It held buttermilk and was taken by the menfolk to the fields; the thick juniper or spruce kept the drink cold throughout the day. Also, the farmer could be away from the farmhouse for several days and milk would not sour in a spruce container.

The oldest stringed instrument of Finland. It was likely brought to Finland in prehistoric times, as mentioned in Finland's national epic Kalevala, where it was made by the hero Vainamoinen from the jawbone of a big pike fish. The instrument remained prominent in Karelia, but in the west it was superseded by the violin around the 17th century. The modern concert kantele has 32 strings; the early kantele had only five.

Scale, 1796
Scale with iron ball. Small black dots represent higher and lower ends of scale. It is turned sideways and item being weighed is hung on hook. There is a part missing in the center. If the government thought the vendor was cheating, a small piece of the iron ball was removed and its weight was tested.

finnish folk art museum knott birchbark knapsacks

Knapsacks (kontt)
Knapsacks on wall are birch bark. Used to carry lunch to the fields.

Moosehide knapsack
Moosehide knapsack hanging from reindeer horns was used by Mr. Paloheimo's father.

finnish folk art museum hearth
Ostrobothnian hearth. Known as a takka in Finnish, it served as both a cooking stove and a fireplace.

finnish folk art museum coffee roaster

Coffee Roaster and Cheesecake Mould. The round "pan" on the hearth is a coffee roaster. Behind it is a juustolauta, a cheese baking board.

finnish folk art museum boxes for cheese and butter

Square boxes for cheese or butter.

Long board and round stick on painted chest is for ironing. Wet linen was wound around the stick and ironed smooth by running board up and down.

Water bucket is new. However, it was one of the most central items in an Ostrobothnian home. Before running water, it would be filled every morning with buckets from a well. The family used the tub as their water source throughout the day.

Butter churn.

The cradle (ketho was kept in the tupa where the mother was working. Traditionally given by the farmer to his wife before the birth of their first child. Even the baby had an individual little raanu to stay warm.

New five-stringed instrument was plucked with the fingers. Old one-stringed instrument was played with a bow.

finnish folk art museum far wall
Ylisanky, aka Kokkasanky

The bunk bed is nearly 200 years old. The silmipyyhes are white and red lightweight end pieces are "eye" cloths used for wiping the face and eyes in the morning. White cloth hanging at the end of the bunk is for the same purpose. The elegant green and red woollen raanu blanket is a famous type of Ostrobothnian drape that lent privacy and kept the bunk bed warm. There is storage space underneath, perhaps called eteinen.

In older times, since the tupa was the only well-heated room, all family members slept in the tupa in bunk beds during the winter. But since the 18th century, the bunk bed was moved to the rear corner and used just by household sons and male farmhands. The farmer and his wife, and the daughters and maidservants, would sleep in individual bedchambers behind the tupa.

Comb and cleaner
The comb cleaner is made of hemp and the comb is a cow horn.

Konni clock (1850s)
The Konni clock flourished in wealthy Central Ostrobothnian farmhouses. It must be wound every 24 hours. This clock comes from the parish of Ylistaro, but the design originated with the clockmaking fmaily Konni in Ilmajoki.

Chair, 16th century
The oldest chair is the plainest. 16th century.

Bridal Chair, 19th century
In old Ostrobothnian society, it was customary for a farmer to craft a chair as his daughter's dowry. The bride took this chair to her new home, where it was prominently displayed in the tupa living room. Thus, Ostrobothnian tupas were known to have a great number of chairs. This bridal chair's design originates in the early Renaissance, but its perforated upward widening back is typical of 19th century Ostrobothnian bridal chairs. It has a heart motif.

Keunotuoli Rocker
This rocker and its accompanying textile would have been a showpiece enjoyed by one or two people such as elderly guests or the farmer and his wife.

Birch-bark slippers
finnish folk art museum birch bark slippers
These were used for working outside in the summer.

Small containers
Small carved containers are for string, buttons, etc. One use for the large hand-carved box is for ladies to store their hats while heading to church.

Book under glass is 1835, printed in Finnish. Very rare. Finland was under Swedish rule for 600 years and the ruling class did not allow the speaking or printing of Finnish. The language in the book would no longer be spoken or printed, much like Shakespearean English is no longer used. Mr. Paloheimo would read these books as a child while they were still under the glass.

Ceiling racks

finnish folk art museum hole bread

Racks are meant for a rye bread called ruis reikä leipä (ray-ka-lay-pa) meaning hole bread that was stored so that fires did not need to be lit during the high fire season. It could also be used for drying loaves of rye sourdough.

Gustavian corner cabinet (1857)
Wealthy Ostrobothnian farmhouses had cupboards painted in a pastel teal and decorated with flower motifs. This style of cabinet was named after Swedish King Gustavus III (and colloquially called Peasant Rocco. This item would have been ordered from the village craftsmen, while simpler cupboards would have been made by the farmer himself.

Spinning wheel (rukki)
The rukki is another traditional tupa furnishing. The spinning wheel has flax on it ready for spinning into linen. The implement to hold the bundle of wool or flax is called a distaff (rukinlapa). Ostrobothnia's young men were known to give exquisitely carved distaffs to their fiancées as engagement gifts, and Ostrobothnian women were skillful weavers. Distaff carving especially flourished in Ostrobothnia between 1750 and 1850.

Chest (arkku), circa 1700
Beneath the stairs is a heavy and simple chest with ironwork. These chests were mostly used to store the farmer's daughter's dowry. It was kept open during the wedding to show off the bride's trosseau. Thus it typically had the bride's initials and the wedding date on the inside of the lid. Toward the end of the 18th century, other ornamentation developed. The inside was so richly decorated, because it was meant to be kept open during the wedding festivities.

Karelia costume
A costume from Kaukola, a parish in Karelian Isthmus, has a typical navy-blue accordion-pleated skirt with a red border. The vest is a dark blue wool and richly embroidered. The white apron is decorated with homemade bobbin lace. The headdress is a so-called sappali, a red band decorated with tin tacks. It was originally worn only by young unmarried maidens; married women whore a white veil-like scarf with the Kaukola costume. Shoes worn with this costume are called kurposet.

Karelia kaspaikka
A traditional kaspaikka (hand towel) had a ritualistic function in Karelian folk culture. It was hung on the wall of the pirtti (cabin) in the living room during funerals, weddings and other gatherings. Later in history it was used as a communal napkin at mealtime on special occasions, placed across the laps of honored guests sitting together on a long bench. It currently is over the portrait of Madonna.

Ryjyy Rug, 1801
finnish folk art museum ryjyy rug

Vakka container
With its lock and handle, the vakka was a multiuse item used to store everything from food during picnics to pretty bonnets.


Cheese moulds

Photograph of folk dancers in the yard of the Antti Farm in the open-air museum of Seurasaari. The farmhouse dates from 1811 and was originally located in Satakunta but was trasnferred to the Seurasaari home near Helsinki in 1930.

Cups are over 100 years old. Plates are both new and old. A typical cupboard is in the corner. Closets were not known. Candle holder on top is birch bark. Container on floor is birch burl.

Table is old. Cloth down center is a community napkin that goes on the laps of diners. It is very old, linen, handspun and handwoven.

Small containers on the table are modern, miniature eating or drinking utensils like those used many years ago.

The rugs are of the marriage rug type that would be woven by the bride for her future home. Chairs were usually carved by the groom, and he would sometimes also prepare the laundry paddle, ironer, carved flax holder or furniture.

On the back room walls are two ryijy (ree ya) rugs from 1931 and 1801