The car turns into the yard of an idyllic house built at the turn of the previous century. Standing in the yard, arms akimbo, is Tarja, who works as a laboratory supervisor at Chemigate’s Lapua unit.
Tarja is giving me a look that I learned to associate with the people of Lapua twenty years ago. The look is self-confident and perhaps a bit challenging. If you get such a look at a fast-food stand at night, it is a good idea to give up your place in the queue, no matter how much you want those French fries. Tarja was challenged by Maisa in the name of equality. After all, the series started to get an all-male panel feel to it. The sisters clearly need to stick together.
Tarja started at the company at a time when the Lapua unit was still operating under the name of Kationi Oy. The year was 1984. The company was only just learning to modify starches, and laboratory staff were needed. In the early years, the laboratory staff equalled Tarja. The idea is for Tarja to tell me about her handicrafts. I heard about her hobby through the grapevine, but I had not yet received a more detailed explanation from her despite my inquiries.
The house and its mistress are filled with warm hospitality. This house has seen over a hundred years of all kinds of family celebrations. Today, its occupants are Tarja and her husband Teuvo. Both are well-known and respected people in the area. Back in the day, Tarja used to live under the same roof with her parents and ten siblings, a lively bunch. While the air is heavy with family traditions, the current occupants have left their mark on the surfaces. The main room has countless homemade decorations and other delicious details. Gradually, it starts to become clear why Tarja’s craft hobby is so difficult to categorise. She has obviously been doing a little bit of everything.
There is a beautiful off-white cloth lying on the table. It has been displayed to represent the first steps of the craft hobby. Fabrics were Tarja’s first love. They even made her some pocket money during her student years.
“When I start a new hobby, I do it all day long. I wake up early in order to get something done before I go to work, and I stay up too late at night.” Trends change quickly, and inspiration may suddenly run dry. At the moment, Tarja is taking a break from her hobbies and waiting for just that: inspiration. A semi-finished piece of diamond embroidery looks a little sad in the middle of the table. Tarja’s grandson Aapo must patiently wait for his car.
At some point, Tarja also became enthusiastic about using recycled materials in her crafts. A few years back, she used tabs from cans to decorate handbags and jewellery, which she now places on the table. I am sure that people who appreciate today’s responsible fashion would be interested in this idea. The handbags have already become too small, having been outgrown by the latest smartphones. Once the inspiration returns, it would not seem impossible to spot a genuine Tarja Rintala handbag even in the Presidential Palace on Independence Day.
“I’ve always liked to work with my hands. That’s why working in the lab has also been meaningful.” Tarja warmly recommends that Chemigate’s new laboratory supervisor become familiar with the daily work of the laboratory technicians. “It is important to know what the work requires.” There is cold steel in her eyes when she shoots out the next piece of guidance:
“You have to get along with everyone.”
The laboratory supervisor has to bear a certain amount of responsibility. For some, it may be too much. Tarja speaks about an incident that took place years ago, when a summer substitute did not turn up for work on the second day. When Tarja’s supervisor called after the person to check that nothing bad had happened, the phone was answered by the person’s mother, who explained that they could not assume such a great responsibility after all.
Chemigate’s corporate culture gets Tarja’s approval. There is no need to bow down to managers. She has not had to do this herself, nor has she demanded it of others. When we discuss this, Tarja’s eyes soften and she acclaims her relationship with her own supervisor.
“Harri Heikkinen and I have been getting along well ever since I picked him up at Seinäjoki railway station on his first day of work as a young and fresh engineer.”
Throughout her life, Tarja has been building networks at both work and leisure. Her CV covers a wide range of activities from parish welfare work to trade union board memberships. “I guess I’m sociable,” she says. Tarja could easily be profiled as an organiser who is constantly on the move, but this is somewhat at odds with reality. You see, Tarja and Teuvo do not travel much. The common denominator of the networks is localness – they are all Lapua-based. Just think: you were able to build comprehensive networks from the comfort of your home even before the era of social media.
A sociable person has many friends. Of course, there are always differences between friends. One of Tarja’s closest friends at Chemigate is Harri Vainionpää. He is a close friend, almost like a brother. Harri’s passion is cycling, and it now seems that the author of this article will have to start pumping up bicycle tyres. Will you accept the challenge, Harri?