Wigel – genuine Lappish handicrafts
Taija Aikio is a third-generation handicraft artisan from Rovaniemi.
Taija’s grandmother, Anna Wigelius, began making reindeer leather products in Utsjoki back in 1984. Taija’s mother, Jaana Aikio, continued the family business in 2000.
In 2017, it was Taija’s turn to become involved.
“Me, my mother and grandmother all learned handicraft skills during our childhood. We are all trained restaurant chefs, but each of us has decided to make a living from making handicrafts.”
Taija’s grandfather was a reindeer herder, so it is rather natural that the family’s female members have chosen reindeer hide as the raw material for their products.
“Reindeer leather is a unique work of art created by Mother Nature; every hide is different. Reindeer hide produces one of the world’s most durable leathers.”
Taija believes that any object made from reindeer leather must respect the material itself.
“A product made using reindeer leather has to be of a high quality, beautiful and durable. This is an important value for me that has been passed down from one generation to the next using the so-called apprentice – craftsman – expert craftsman principle.”
Taija’s grandmother and mother made souvenirs from reindeer leather, but not under any particular brand name. When Taija started her career making reindeer leather products, she realised that the products made by her grandmother and mother were of such high quality that they really needed branding.
“Our products are now known for the reindeer antler logo and the brand name Wigel, which came from her grandmother’s surname. Our product stamp also tells that the reindeer leather comes from Lapland, Finland.”
In September 2019, Taija was awarded a certificate for the quality of the handicrafts made by her family:
“I met a gentleman who showed me his wallet that my grandmother had made for him 30 years ago. He had been using it daily since the day he bought it!”
Indeed, many of Wigel’s modern products are based on the original designs of Anna Wigelius. Taija has carefully studied her grandmother’s designs and enhanced them to satisfy modern-day standards.
“I dream of the day when the amount of disposable rubbish in this world is reduced and sustainable and durable handicrafts would be more respected. It feels great to finish off a quality item that you know will last a long time. I hope that after another 30 years someone would approach me to show me his wallet made by my mother and grandmother that is still in use!”