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Finlandia Success: Heidi Wiitanen ’06

June 28, 2016

Heidi Wiitanen

ALUM Heidi Wiitanen

  • Major: Fiber Arts
  • Graduation Year: 2006
  • Hometown: AuTrain, Michigan
  • Current Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Job: Professional Artist + Entrepreneur with KAMPPINEN

What attracted you to Finlandia University?

Heidi Wiitanen: I was initially attracted to Finlandia because of where it is located. Hancock is a historic town with a lot of Finnish history. It’s also immersed in nature, something I am so much inspired by. Finlandia being the only Finnish-founded university in the United States also intrigued me. Whilst a student at Finlandia, I enjoyed the small, intimate classes – there is a level of comfort and community that is both encouraging and motivating, and this combination is pretty rare.

Photo of Wiitanen's work with KAMPPINEN

What programs or people inspired your incredible work?

HW: I would have to give most credit to Phyllis Fredendall. She has a great gift of finding something positive about anything you are working on. She is able to give a valuable critique of your work in a way that motivates you to aim higher while still enjoying what you have already created. It’s important to learn and love the art process itself first before focusing on the end result or product. Rick Loduha was always inspiring to me – he has a knack for getting students to think more broadly in terms of sustainability and environmental awareness while searching for innovative methods and materials.

Finnish culture

Heidi Wiitanen Dyeing WorkHW: I am a third-generation American Finn (all of my great-grandparents immigrated from Finland), and our culture has always been important to my family. In regards to International School Art and Design at Finlandia, it was pleasing to learn that the program is affiliated with Kuopio Academy in Finland. Being a Finnish university, it’s important that Finlandia continues to have a program style which models itself after art programs in Finland – a country known worldwide for its intelligence and innovation in art and product design.

Advice for those exploring art and design as a career

HW: I would say that if art and design is your true calling, then you will make it happen. I wanted to be an artist since I can remember, but was under the impression that it wasn’t a very practical profession. Since I was also competent in science, I initially chose to go to school for Clinical Laboratory Science at Michigan Tech. Although my laboratory degree served me well, and I am proud to have a degree from MTU, I could never get the thought of being an artist/designer out of my mind. I ended up returning to school at Finlandia for Fiber/Fashion Design a few years later.

What’s life like as a maker/artist in NASHVILLE?

HW: It’s great. There is absolutely no lack of creative energy here. There is also a lot of drive. People just go for it. There’s no holding back. I have an incredible network of friends and acquaintances that are entrepreneurs, chefs, designers, artists, and of course, musicians. There is a lot of support and encouragement in Nashville. I am so grateful to be here right now.


This article is part of a regularly produced series titled Finlandia Success. E-mail alumni@finlandia.edu to suggest alumni who might make a great feature in the next Finlandia Success story. Readers can learn more about Heidi Wiitanen’s work by visiting kamppinen.com. A special thanks to Hannah Messinger for providing the excellent photography associated with this piece.

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