Special Feature: The World of Tilda
Welcome to the world of Tilda’s creative dynamo, Tone Finnanger. It’s the meeting place of whimsy, romance and unbeatable style.
We all know and love the Tilda brand, but how well do we know its founder and creative director, Tone Finnanger? With years of successful business to her credit, she is still at the top of her game and expanding her empire into extra new premises to showcase her remarkable style. Tone invites us into her new Tilda Fabrics Norwegian-island showroom and shares ‘grabs’ of her unique lifestyle and her professional pyschology. She is as charming as she is creative – and her romantically exotic home, studio and showroom are perfect backdrops for her impeccable style.
TILDA IN THE MAKING
I started the company Tilda in 1999, when I was just 24 years old, in a house I inherited from my mother’s aunt on a very small island in the Oslo fjord [Norway]. We decided to leave the city for a life by the sea.
I was very inspired by Norwegian animator Ivo Caprino and classic children’s authors and illustrators. I had a vision of a children’s concept for children growing up in the city. It was to take place in a cosy town courtyard with charming characters and the plan was to create books and animated films. I worked on stories and illustrations for the books and in the cellar I started building large scenes and developing dolls.
Meanwhile, I took a part-time job in a local craft and quilt shop, where I made projects like sewn softies, inspired by the concept I was working on at home. A few costumers suggested I gather my ideas in a craft book.
The children’s concept soon developed into a lifestyle brand for grown woman who sew and make things for themselves and their children. I went to a publisher with a bag full of projects and walked out with two book contracts. I decided to call the concept Tilda.
I had a lucky start, because the books sold so well. I also flew around the country to remote places, doing workshops almost every weekend. Soon, I got in touch with a large Nordic craft company, and we decided to cooperate with developing a few Tilda products. The number of products grew fast, and it took about three years before I was able to make a distant living. It’s 18 years now that we’ve been working together on producing and distributing Tilda products.
Starting Tilda back, in 1999, came very naturally and, because I worked through publishers and a craft company who manufactured my products, I didn’t have to invest anything but time. I had to work hard to convey all my ideas, but thinking back, I feel I was rather lucky. The most frustrating part was probably not always being able to get my ideas through in the very beginning.
Today, Tilda is a lifestyle brand within the craft and quilt market recognised for its whimsical, feminine look.
Last year, as Tilda turned 18, we started Tilda Fabrics in this new location on the neighbouring island in cooperation with some very talented and experienced employees and freelancers. We now work directly with the manufacturers, organise distribution and marketing from our new location.
The showroom is also there so we can welcome our customers, show them upcoming collections and get their opinion about new products. Our customers are wholesalers and will often travel far to visit. We do our best to make them feel welcome.
THE FURNISHINGS CAROUSEL
‘Look’ is probably more important than practicality in Tilda’s world but, of course, rooms such as offices and meeting rooms have to be practical. We often try to merge the two – for example, by using an old easel for our whiteboard and getting a local guy to make us a beautiful wooden meeting table. The lunch aria is like a Tilda cafe with an old sales counter.
We have to change furniture and accessories often to do adapt to the different collections and photo shoots. My favourites will vary but I always love to have a good collection of eclectic pottery and smaller vintage furniture at hand.
At home, I have items that I will always treasure, but when it comes to work, it’s more about finding the perfect props. The best ones have a tendency to come home to our house, which just keeps getting fuller.
Storage is always important, and we managed to get some lovely glass cabinets for the offices. In the showroom, we had our carpenter neighbours build fabric shelves inspired by vintage shop shelves, where we can keep our current collections. We have a loft and cellar but never seem to have enough storage space. Luckily, we don’t keep stock here – it’s more for props and storing examples of earlier collections.
MY ISLAND HOME
The island where we live and where I work a lot of my time is very small. Only 400 people live here all year around, and you can cross it on foot in around 30 minutes. Many of the residents are artists and crafts people, and so I couldn’t ask for better neighbours and friends.
In the summer, thousands of holidaymakers come to the island because, not only for its scenery and tranquillity, but for all its galleries, restaurants and cafes. The island turns into ‘the place to be’ for a few weeks, then suddenly, it’s all over and completely quiet once again. The island is home to many deer and the poor creatures retreat to the small forest areas in the tourist season, only to return to our gardens once the visitors are gone. Sometimes they just walk along the sidewalk, and that is certainly a sign that summer’s over!
The winter is cold and icy. Sometimes the island is so full of snow that we don’t know what to do with it all. (You are not allowed to dump snow in the ocean in Norway.) We use the winter to work and have some nice gatherings and dinners and when the spring comes we understand why we chose to live here again.
A LASTING LOVE
I loved the first years of Tilda because my creative work suddenly had meaning and was turned into something real, but the possibilities in product development at that time was very limited. I appreciate the possibilities and opportunities we have today and the product quality we have achieved. I have also learned a lot since then and feel more secure in my professional choices.
BEST OF BOTH
Our home/studio is perfectly for us – we just love it. We are also love the new showroom, because it has everything we need. I feel we are very lucky with the premises we have for Tilda.
You don’t really stop to think about success when working with design, because nothing is more important than your next project. You always need to do your very best with the project that is right in front of you. That said, I always believed in Tilda, and had a very clear vision of what I wanted it to be.
2 Green Zebras