Studio Team: Meet Johanna Ilmarinen

Everyone now and then, we’ll share a little bit about the team behind Aalto Studios. Today, we introduce you to Johanna Ilmarinen, our costume design workshop master at Aalto Studios. Johanna has worked at Aalto University since 2010, although she was gone working at Uniarts’ wardrobe for two years. We are very happy she returned to Aalto this year! Without further ado, here’s a brief interview with Johanna. 

What do you do at Aalto Studios?

I am the costume design workshop master and responsible for the execution of designs. Students have their own supervisors who guide them with designing the costume, but I help and advice them in making it. Costumes in performing arts often include technological. If a project has time pressure, I help more with sewing, if  I have time from my other tasks.

What brought you to Aalto Studios?

When I was a child, I always wanted to become a costume designer. As I started studying costume design, I realized I enjoyed making costumes more than designing them. Aalto University has the only university-level costume design program in Finland, so there are very interesting research projects and high-quality teaching here. I worked in the Helsinki City Theater’s wardrobe for nearly 5 years before starting at Aalto. After I had been at Aalto for about 6 years, I felt that I needed to experience something different and gain insight so I moved to work at Uniarts Theatre Academy for two years. It was refreshing to gain knowledge on how things are done in other organizations, but nice to come back “home”. Although, in the two years that I was gone, the costume design studio had moved from Arabia to Otaniemi and the building’s name changed from Lume Media Centre to Aalto Studios.

What’s the most exciting idea, project or initiative that you have going on at the moment?

ACO project last week is a good example of how busy my job can get; I got the design on Wednesday and had to be finish costume by Friday. A much longer production, that is coming up is the Flash Flash opera at Espoo City Theatre in February. Sometimes we get two days, and other times two months to prepare the costumes for a production. Flash Flash project is very exciting for myself and our students, because they will get to work with a professional theatre which is a whole new world compared to school productions.

What is your philosophy in life and how do you apply it to your everyday working methods?

At my job, I face new challenges thinking “Nothing is impossible”. Not that everything is possible, but no idea is crazy enough to not give it a try. Students haven’t experienced many setbacks, so they are often very experimental with their designs. I try to avoid telling them that something can not be done, because sometimes it can.

Aalto Studios, the media center of the future, goes live in 2021 and is going to have amazing facilities for film, media, VR and sound design. What would you include in the new building dedicated to media?

Overall, the new media center is a very exciting project for Aalto University and media professionals outside of Aalto. Whether or not to include the costume in the new building is still under discussion. As productions are all about teamwork, it would be convenient for the costume studio to be under the same roof as other functions that play a role in performing arts and filmmaking. It would be a disappointment to not be an immediate part of the media center community. Otakaari 7 has nice facilities, but it’s a little far from the new media center. I hope that we can find solutions to make the collaboration between costume and set design and other parts of Aalto Studios to work.

Where do you see your own work going? What might it become?

One of the reasons I really enjoy my job is that I get to experiment with different materials and technology. Aalto University provides us with excellent resources for using even the most eccentric materials through collaboration with other faculties. It’s a huge advantage for costume design to be located on the same campus with other schools at Aalto. New materials are invented, so my job is constantly evolving. 


What is Aalto Studios?

Media production resources and services to all Aalto University, at any scale.

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