Bringing the Outside Inside

This was originally published on Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens.

I would venture a guess that most of you reading this article have found some way to bring your love of nature inside. Whether it’s flowers on the curtains, paintings of birds on the walls or a set of dishes displaying bees, I’m betting all of us have brought our gardens and favorite wildlife inside. I’m going to share my main indoor nature passion, but I want to hear what everyone else has done. Do you collect something? DIY home décor? Beetles depicted on everything? Do tell in the comments!

My passion started just over four years ago while visiting a good friend in Helsinki. A beautiful glass bird was given to me as a parting gift and I haven’t been the same since. The bird was the Red Tern, one of the Birds by Toikka series from the Finnish design company, Iittala. Ever since that first bird, I became (slightly) obsessed with Toikka’s birds. Luckily for me, we moved to Seattle and we’re now close enough to visit the Museum of Glass in Tacoma each year for their Bird Lover’s Weekend, when Iittala sends a master glass blower to demonstrate how these beautiful birds are made. Until I received a glass bird I had never given glass as a material a second thought. It was simply something I drank wine out of. It’s a beautiful thing when one object can open a whole new world for you.

The Bird Lover’s Weekend is all about the birds, and it returns to Tacoma this coming October. There are many events including a visit from several birds from Point Defiance Zoo which usually include a Kookaburra and an Eagle Owl. But watching the master glass blower is the main event and most fascinating part. Professor Oiva Toikka designs these birds and has done so for over 40 years now. When asked why birds, he often states it’s because the fluid shape of the bird lends itself so well to glass. Watching the glass blowers at work, is like watching the bird come to life spinning and stretching at the end of the metal pole. The glass when hot is alive and glowing and very fluid. When done, the birds often look as if they’re still in motion. For each of these special weekends, Toikka designs a special bird, which is created in Finland and sent to the Museum of Glass. The birds blown during the weekend’s demonstrations are also sold by the Museum of Glass and I’ve been lucky enough to get two of these over the past two years.

Like real birds, Toikka’s birds often exhibit subtle differences between individuals and different species. As each is hand made, they are all truly unique. Many, if not most, are modeled after actual birds such as grebes, kingfishers, owls, magpies and many songbirds. Perhaps this is one reason I love these birds and have the desire to collect them. Some are also very rare and hard to find while others are more common and easily bought. As the book, Birds by Toikka states, “collecting Toikka birds has become an international activity, with rarities being as eagerly tracked down and talked about as their real equivalents in the ornithological world”.

The real success of these birds however, are the people who love and buy them. Oiva Toikka has said that he didn’t choose birds, they chose him because everyone loved them so much. His first birds for Iittala quickly led to more and in 1994 he was given his own collection titled ‘Birds by Toikka’ and number several hundred species. They are now sought after throughout the world and have a very loyal following.

If you’d like to see more photographs of the creation of these birds visit my photo albums of the Bird Lover’s Weekends from 2009, 20102011 and 2013.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World, coming April 1, 2020 from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction.

Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.
Kelly Brenner
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