Textiles and the Ambiente printing method

Porin puuvilla Oy (Pori Cotton Mill)

Sarpaneva served as the artist and artistic director for the largest cotton mill in the Nordic countries, Porin puuvilla, from 1955 to 1965. The importance of colour in textile design became a key element. The colour chart he created included hundreds of tones, which the artist used with careful consideration in his stripe and colour field patterns. The colours used in the first fabric collections were darkish earth tones. In later collections, the colour scale became brighter and lighter. The first export line that enjoyed wide acclaim, the Karelia collection, included fabrics for both interior design and clothing applications.




“Pohjanlahti” rugs

Sarpaneva served as the artistic director at several textile mills in the Nordic countries during the period 1955-1970. The “Pohjanlahti” rugs (traditional Finnish ‘ryijy rugs) were made in co-operation with textile engineer Betzy Wegelius in 1960. The old traditional technique of rugmaking was updated: the Pohjanlahti rugs were produced semi-industrially. The colourful, long tufts made of intertwining wool yarns form a soft, uniform surface. The Pohjanlahti rugs lack the “striped” surface of rugs made using the traditional knotting technique. The colours of the abstract patterns, heather, moss, rock, etc. fade gently in and out of each other.


ryijy1 ryijy3


Ambiente fabrics

“You have to think of the machine and the product as a single whole. By studying and living beside the machine, you learn its creative capacity. You have to know how to listen to machines – they’ll tell their own story, show you the way.” Sarpaneva, 1965

“The Ambiente technique allows me to paint fabrics with a machine! No more slavish reports, no print films – just a big machine brush!” Sarpaneva had developed a new printing technique, in which paper and fabrics could be printed in rotary printing presses, much the same way as newspapers are printed. There was no need to stop the machine to change colour settings or templates. Printing could be done uninterrupted. In this process, the fabric passed between two rollers. Dyes were pumped through nozzles, which were mounted on a rail. The nozzles were bendable and could be directed as desired. Nozzle valves were used to control the amount of dye and fabric patterning. Compressed air was used to disperse the dye being sprayed from the nozzles, thus making it possible to create interesting new patterns. Because the dyes were pressed through the fibres, both sides of fabric looked identical. Up to 60 nozzles could be mounted on the moving rails, which allowed for designs with very narrow stripes. The dye was fused to the fabric by heat treatment, which was done immediately after dyeing. After washing, the fabric was finished and ready for use. The technique had virtually no dye waste and offered a uniform, consistent result. It saved as much as 50% in costs compared to film printing. In Finland, four mills produced fabrics and art papers using the Ambiente technique at the same time.

The Ambiente technique was granted a global patent in 1965.
Ambiente fabrics received the International Design Award in 1969. (American Institute of Interior Designers)
Ambiente art papers received the Eurostar for Packaging Design award in 1965. The Eurostar is the most prestigious packaging award in the world.