Biographies made of wood
In the courtyard of Kirkkokatu 27 there is still a baker's cottage where Samuli Sarkkila spent his Finnish years
On the upper floor of the Raahe Museum there are tiny wood sculptures. Human figures sculpted by Samuli Sarkkila are a critique of the 1920s and 1930s.
Samuli (Samppa) Sarkkila was born in 1878 in Pattijoki. In his youth years he traveled a lot, visiting America twice. He worked in mines in Alaska, travelled around Oregon and Canada. He saw and experienced a lot.
When returning to Finland, Sarkkila settled down in a small bakery cabin in the yard of the shopkeeper Heikki Nordström's house (Kirkkokatu 27). Samppa kept the cottage neat and in tip-top condition. In the corner there was a stack of wood sticks drying. - He always had a knife in his hand.
Sarkkila had invested dollars in the United States. He made the mistake of not switching America's way of life to Finnish Marks and when a massive stock market crash came in 1928, the dollar lost its value along with Samppa's assets. After falling on hard times he had to cancel an agreed house purchase and his bride to be left.
A handy man he grabbed a meager living carving primitive wood sculptures of the locals. According to his contemporaries, he was a skinny, short, kind and quiet - almost lonely person.
A biography in a wooden book
Sarkkila was happy to tell about his life. His carvings told all. Wood was converted into stories about his own life, Raahe and its inhabitants. Samppa's naive sculptures and reliefs are in a number of local homes and the Museum of Raahe.
Sarkkila's book "S. A. S. life's life "is in four parts: childhood and departure to America, being in America and feeling at home, another American trip and going to Alaska, return to Finland and staying to rest in old age. A total of about 150 photographs have been cut into flute sheets.
In addition, Sarkkila carved more than anything else wooden figures, presenting gentlemen, ladies, craftsmen, women, children and locals.
A Finnish Mark per view
Sarkkila presented his carousel of wooden figures to the locals. He went to the shops and every one laughed with glee. Finnish Marks would have filled his pockets, but his career was cut short by the police. The officials strongly forbade the presentation of the carousel.
- It's strange when you can not market your own work freely in Finland, Sarkkila agonized. He got revenge on the ban and broke the carousel into a thousand pieces and burned his wooden figures in the oven.
The police denied banning the the carousel out of spite, but fined Sarkkila because he had not considered paying taxes!
Sarkkila was a self-taught man, a folk artist. In an article published in the magazine Suomen kuvalehti in 1937, he is compared to monk artists paintings on the walls of old stone churches. Unlike the monks, Sarkkila only depicted the events of life of one's own and his neighbours.
A little girl friend
Taina Huovinen (now Perälä) often went to Karvinen's shop with her little sister Eila-Kaarina (now Pakka). On one trip the five year old sister suddenly went missing. She had once again popped over to the log home of Samppa Sarkkila to visit him.
The friendship between Eila-Kaarina and Samppa had begun when Karvinen's aunt had sent the girl over to Samppa with some fried bread.
In the cottage, the little girl was lost in a fairy tale world: everywhere there were carved figures of animals and people. The most wonderful of all was the horse with the stroller. Samppa allowed Eila-Kaarina to play with them. For a girl who loved horses, and collected figures of pigs and cows time simpoly flew by as she was in her element.
Eila-Kaarina called at Samppa's without asking permission, without knocking on the door and always having the same gentle reception. The girl heard things from around the world and spent some great moments as a guest of the cottage man.
Eila-Kaarina remembered, "Often, Samppa offered me coffee, as if at least to a visitor". Sometimes the girl got a real pastry bought from the shop with the coffee. The coffee came with lots of cream and sugar and you could have as much as you wanted! The five-year-old felt herself a guest of honour.
The great treasure of Eila-Kaarina is a small wooden sculpture carved by Samppa, which was presented to the girl in 1950. - It has been with me my whole life and stil is!
Samuli Aleksanteri Sarkkila
- born 10.5.1878 in Salo Parish Village (Pattijoki),
- 16.3.1910 went to America,
- moved 4.1.1913 to the Parish of Raah,
- died unmarried 20.5.1956 in Raahe.
- At the corner of the Kirkkokatu and ja Koulukatu.
- Aina Frieman had a bookstore in the house from 1880.
- After the death of Friemanin the house transferred ownership to the Nordstöm family.
- the Nordströms lived in the house and traded from there.
- Karvinen's general store operated from the house in the mid- 1900s.
- The entrance was on the Aurion side of the house on the koulukatu side. The homes were on the garden side.
- Pizzeria Alto Mare operated from there 1984-2007. The doorway was in the present location.