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In Bed with Tom of Finland

by Xavier van Beesd in Theatre, Art & Expo , 02 February 2015

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

When it was announced in the spring of 2014 that the Finnish postal service would issue later that year a series of stamps featuring the work of Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, 1920-1991), people reacted with disbelief in blogs. A lot of people thought it was a hoax.

This disbelief is not so surprising if one takes into consideration the hysterical reactions to the (tasteful) portrait of Harvey Milk on a US stamp. The fundamentalist Christian American Family Association was of the opinion that the stamp doesn’t stand for “diversity” but for “perversity” and called for a boycott. “Refuse mail at your home or business if it is postmarked with the Harvey Milk Stamp.”

The Tom of Finland stamps were not a joke. That Tom of Finland would become a national icon in his native country was not a matter-of-course at all for a long time. In the publication that appeared in 2006 on the occasion of an exhibition of Tom’s work at the Helsinki City Art Museum, Kati Mustola recalls that in the 1980s art circles in Finland reacted with surprise to foreign communications about his art: “It was in fact somewhat embarrassing that in Finland we had ignored an artist whom people were asking about abroad.”

In the elapsed decades, this unfamiliarity transformed into appreciation, as the stamps proof. The editor-in-chief of the “Gay and Lesbian Review,” Richard Schneider Jr., recently stated that the Tom of Finland stamps reflect Finland’s liberal attitude toward sex in general, but wonders whether they “could also be timed as a rebuttal to Russia’s hard turn toward anti-gay intolerance.” During the Cold War, Finland was very much under the influence of Russia. Since then it has become again part of the much more enlightened Scandinavian countries, and Schneider also suggests that Finland “might just be flexing its cultural muscles - a good metaphor where Tom of F. is concerned - vis-à-vis its giant neighbor to the east after enduring something of a master-slave relationship.”

Whether it is solely about the appreciation of Tom of Finland, or whether it’s also to give Vladimir Putin something to think about, it is indisputable that Tom of Finland’s work now takes a prominent position in Finland’s cultural heritage. This is also reflected in the textile collection “Tom of Finland by Finlayson,” which was simultaneously launched on November 20 in more than thirty countries in Europe, the United States, Australia, and in some countries in Asia. Finlayson is a pioneer in the field of textiles in Finland, and has been designing and manufacturing high-quality interior textiles since 1820.

In June 2014, Finlayson was taken over, and international growth plays a key role in the new strategy of the company, which is also becoming active on the Dutch market. “We are extremely pleased to introduce Dutch consumers to the quality and tradition of Finlayson.

The Tom of Finland by Finlayson collection is based on innovative and ground breaking Finish design. It is also a wonderful tribute to Touko Laaksonen, one of the most beloved and respected Finnish artists ever.” According to Risto Voutilainen, responsible for the international activities of Finlayson, “the company first and foremost wants to spread an international message of respect and tolerance.”

The first version of the Tom of Finland by Finlayson collection has two designs with work by Tom of Finland: “Fellows” and “Face to Face.”

The collection consists of (single and double) satin bed linen, bath towels and an exclusive large cotton bag. The collection has been developed in close cooperation with the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles.

The product line will be expanded in 2015 with the introduction of new patters and products, in which kitchen textiles will be launched first. The collection is now exclusively available in The Netherlands in the international Finlayson webshop ( Soon, the Tom of Finland by Finlayson collection will also become available at the bigger department stores in The Netherlands.




In our youngest issue, Gay News 344, April/ May/ June/ July 2020



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