From brilliant birds to mysterious bears, a cast of colorful characters is decking our halls this year, courtesy of the talented illustrator Sanna Annukka. You’ll find her menagerie peeking in between the branches of Christmas trees, waving from coffee mugs and frolicking across shopping bags throughout the holiday season.
Her distinctive style is part homage to midcentury Scandinavian design, part celebration of her Finnish heritage and 100% of the moment. Annukka’s mom is from Finland, and the young artist soaked up Finnish folktales and folk art on summer visits with her grandparents. The influence on her work is undeniable. Our holiday trim is imbued with a certain magic that goes beyond eye-catching colors and retro-chic sensibility.
We asked Annukka a few questions about her personal style, her favorite Finnish word and the meaning of the animals she brought to life for us.
Tell us about the characters you created for Nordstrom. Who are they?
They’re a family of forest animals: a bear, a deer, a dog, plus owls and other birds. These are animals I’m particularly fond of—they are such a part of nature in Scandinavia and Finland. Paired together [the bird resting on the deer, for example] they symbolize togetherness, friendship and love—all important during the holiday season!
What are the holidays like at your house?
Sometimes we disappear into the wilds of Lapland. We love to go snowshoe walking and husky-dog sledging. It’s another world there and so peaceful.
However, the past few years we have had celebrations at my home in Brighton. Lots of food, plenty of wine, a real Christmas tree to bring the scent of pine into the home. I love the smell of Christmas! So pine needles, oranges spiked with clove, wood smoke and roast dinners are all nostalgic requirements.
What’s your favorite Finnish word and what does it mean?
Sisu is a punchy little word. It’s a uniquely Finnish concept that describes determination, bravery and resilience.
Your artwork is incredibly bright. How would you describe your personal style?
Fashion wise, I always try to add a hint of “folk” to an outfit, whether that’s braided leather details or a woven belt with traditional folk motifs. But I don’t dress head to toe in color. I stick to having just hints of it. At home I love more earthy colors; I have African masks on the wall, kilim cushions and Persian rugs.
What are some of your favorite characters from Finnish folklore and why?
I love the significance of the bear, known as Otso, king of the forest. The ancient Finns believed the bear embodied the spirit of one’s forefathers and so was given the highest respect. Väinämöinen, from Finland’s national epic The Kalevala, is a particularly intriguing character. He makes a harp from the bones of a fish and plays such beautiful tunes that all the forest creatures come to marvel at the music.
Want these happy forest creatures to make your own tree brighter? Check out our line of Sanna Annukka ornaments.