Irma Weckman grew up in a rural landscape in Nurmijärvi, Finland. As a child, the shiny blue clay soil of the local freshly plowed fields invited her to try and form shapes.
Weckman’s passion for ceramics as a hobby carried through a period, when as a young woman, she started studying education and social work – and later when she worked as a social worker at Helsinki University Central Hospital. The doors of the Helsinki University of Art and Design and its ceramic art department finally opened for the adult student Weckman in 1979. “I studied under the guidance of Kyllikki Salmenhaara during her last working years. She was a reformer of ceramic art teaching.” Irma Weckman’s thesis focused on the oxblood glazing. “The capriciousness and sophistication of oxblood glaze is what makes it so fascinating. Due to the effect of the reducing burning method, the green color of the copper changes to red.” Weckman has utilised the technique she adopted in her everyday objects and unique ceramic works throughout her career.
“In addition to the process of firing clay, earth and stone are also continuously present in the ceramicist’s work. The stone weathers and becomes clay. We walk on clay soil and utility articles are made from the same material.” Of the different firing methods, Weckman is most attracted to the primitive black smoke firing that takes place in a pit. Irma Weckman has used different materials equally, from stoneware to red clay, and has combined different techniques in her work. Her work is often inspired by the shapes of nature, for example exotic fruit, observed on work trips to the Caribbean.
Irma Weckman founded the Ceramic Center Septaria at the Helsinki Cable Factory, which she managed from 1990–2005. Galleria Septaria’s first own exhibition got its name from working at night. Lavoro nero also pointed to the possibilities of black smoke firing.
Weckman has studied the essence of clay in her fragile, partially fractured works. Through that, the transience of everything has also become perceptible. The decomposable urn was created based on ecological principles. She has made it to order for burials, but has also used it as an element in many important installation art works.
Her focus on creative work has led Irma Weckman to participate in dozens of exhibitions in Finland and around the world. However, alongside this artistic work, she has also found time and enjoyed teaching ceramics, explaining that “My own creative work has been of primary importance to me and an absolute prerequisite for teaching.”
Photo: Julia Weckman