For Piret Puppart, the Head of the Fashion Department of the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA), participating in a photo shoot is like a mini-theatre performance for herself. When Piret, who on daily basis works as a lecturer, received an invitation from Viru Keskus to be part of the campaign “We Wear Culture”, she immediately agreed. The photo series styled her as a symbolic Grande Dame of Culture to emphasize the importance of supporting culture. “I think that it is always interesting to participate in projects that create a kind of a universe of their own.”
What Piret likes about Viru Keskus is their courage to think and act differently and their courage to say out loud things that are important. “Viru Keskus is a centre that thinks and I am glad that they have had the courage to raise the issue of sustainability, for example, which is very important these days.”
This is not the first time for EKA or Piret to experiment and try out new approaches together with Viru Keskus. For several years now, they have been organising the Young Design Export Award programme together, which offers the opportunity to study design business with an internationally experienced lecturer, study trip scholarships, and in February every year, EKA students decorate the atrium and facades of Viru Keskus with a spectacular exhibition of experimental form. “This programme is important for helping students to think outside the confines of Estonia. Together, we develop designers who are not only represented in Estonia, but also abroad,” explains Piret.
“Viru Keskus has a very important role here – it provides our students with the most lucrative space and young people can present their work on a large scale, which is a great gift for us. It is nice to see things on such a large scale, this is not something that happens often. My own creative works’ presentations have not featured posters 10-metres tall, for example. To get the best spot in the biggest format – such an experience is a big deal. It inspires one to think big.”
State of emergency came at the right time
Although travelling and going outside Estonia has been difficult in recent years, intensive study work has continued. Naturally, working with students was challenging during that time. “It was really difficult to teach students via videoconferencing how to make a jacket, for example, especially with a poor internet connection.” At the same time, she did not want to make compromises regarding the quality and she stuck to her own principles. “We were told to be more lenient with the students and let them pass more easily, but for me it was important to maintain the same quality during the coronavirus period.”
At the same time, Piret enjoyed the new way of life: “I really liked the first months in the new situation. It happened at the very right time for me – I had been spending too much time of my life on board planes and the state of emergency allowed me to take time off. When working from home, I could take longer lunch breaks and walk more outdoors.”
Piret believes that the state of emergency made people working in the field of art think even more creatively about how to present art. “It seems to me that people now have more courage to create video or light installations and present art more in outdoor space.” Piret recalls, for example, a recent amazing cultural experience in Saaremaa, where a local folk dance group held a performance titled “In My Hand”: “I had not seen anything as beautiful in a long time – it was fantastic, both as far as the music and choreography were concerned. And its creators were just a bunch of people who like to folk dance. This is one example of what we ourselves can do to promote culture.”
Children and nature are always inspiring
One of the most important roles of the always radiant Piret is her role as an aunt. “I really like the company of children; it helps to recharge. They are so creative and they can create such worlds for themselves that you get into and forget everything else,” she says enthusiastically.
“Enjoying nature is the easiest way to relax. For me, being in the nature does not mean a big and overwhelming environment, sometimes it seems to me that my eyes are like magnifying glasses – I walk and focus on certain delicate fragments.” Piret also likes to travel, but that does not always mean leaving Estonia. “My recent discoveries include the Reigi Church cemetery, Ants Laikmaa’s House Museum – an incredible Art Nouveau farmhouse, thatched roof reminiscent of some kind of a fairy tale. This spring, I was also very touched by Kübassaare in Saaremaa, where there are wild garlic fields. There are actually a lot of such places, I get impressed with Estonia very easily.”
When travelling around Estonia, Piret, who is curious by nature, carries a book of Estonian place names, which offers the joy of discovery and helps to create connections that had never occurred to her before. “There are such incredibly exciting explanations there. For example, a place called Meenikunno – the name of the person living there was probably Meinhard, affectionately Meeni, and “kunno” means a grove. Probably the name comes from the fact that he was the first person to live in the grove there. Sometimes there is a connection with a word in a foreign language and suddenly a huge chain reaction happens in my mind between different places and the world becomes much easier to understand,” Piret explains enthusiastically the charm of reading books on place names. “And I also like literature and dictionaries related to folk costumes, these are like thrillers for me,” says Piret.
Piret recommends people to find ways to get involved in projects that they do not usually get into. “If you are not a creative person, at least be the helping hand. It is so nice when you can do something together and see afterwards how it works. I have also involved people who do great things professionally, but they themselves may not see it as creative,” she adds.
Photos: Riina Varol
Styling and concept: Liisi Eesmaa