Maija Isola
Master of Colour and Form

Original title: Maija Isola

A feature length documentary by Leena Kilpeläinen 


Length: 97 min (theatrical) , 52 min (TV) , 28 min (NDR), 26 min (Arte)

Genre: Documentary

Year of production: 2021

Production country: Finland, Germany

Writer / Director: Leena Kilpeläinen

Starring (as themselves): Maija Isola, Kristina Isola, Emma Isola

Voice talents: Päivi Järvinen as Maija Isola, Margit Westerlund as Armi Ratia

Director of Photography: Leena Kilpeläinen

Sound Design: Pietari Koskinen

Editor: Riitta Poikselkä

Animators : Reetta Neittaanmäki, Annika Dahlsten

Editor (TV versions): Menni Renvall

Music: Sanna Salmenkallio

Producer: Merja Ritola

Co-Producer: Elina Kewitz / New Docs

Sales Agent: New Docs (Worldwide)

Distributor: StoryHill (Scandinavia, Baltics)



Marimekko's philosophy of life emerged from the fabric designs of Maija Isola, reaching architectural heights together with Maija's large scale prints. Today, Maija Isola's fabric designs have conquered the whole world. But who was Maija Isola? What were the values at the centre of this vagabond's life, and what kind of a legacy did she leave us?


Artist Maija Isola was born in 1927 in the village of Arolampi in Riihimäki, Finland. And it was also in Riihimäki, in Kaunismäki, that she left this world in 2001. Her productive period as a fabric designer for Marimekko was between 1949 – 1987. But she began her career as a painter already in 1946 and continued painting and drawing until her death.


Maija was an avid traveller and she lived in various cities and countries throughout her life. The documentary film ”Maija Isola Master of Colour and Form” moves from place to place in the footsteps of Maija. The change of location forms the principal structure of the film.


The film explores, among other things, what was the secret behind the success of Maija Isola’s fabrics. Maija Isola’s art, both her paintings and her fabrics, often stemmed from nature in all its forms. She felt like she was part of nature and for her, nature was the divine creator of all that exists. The post-war years in the 1950s and the great population shift from rural areas to the cities in the 60s also played a part in her success; the move to the city transformed the traditional Finnish living environment from one closely connected to nature to a more urban one. The nature-themed fabrics could soften this change. On the other hand, the vivid colours and shapes of Maija’s fabrics stood in stark contrast to the post-war deprivation and worked to revive the Finnish psyche.


The film also seeks to answer the question: Who was artist Maija Isola? Where did she find her inspiration during her decades-long career? What were the central values in the life of this citizen of the world? What legacy did she leave for us?

In addition to Maija Isola (diary, letters, voice recordings, postcards, interview 1992), the film is narrated by Maija’s daughter Kristina Isola. Maija’s texts and the letters of Armi Ratias are read by two actors while Kristina Isola tells the frame narrative.


The film explores artist hood and the artist’s need for mental freedom and solitarity that are pre-requisites for creative work. These are issues Maija Isola struggled with during her life. Themes of the film include being an artist, freedom, need for solitarity, and Maija’s relationship with her daughter as well as with men.


”The program was about silence. I felt a great sense of relief and at times I almost cried as they talked about the man’s desire and need to be alone. There are so many beliefs that a person who likes to be alone is somehow disturbed, abnormal, unhappy and even mentally ill.”— Maija Isola, 24.2. 1976