February 04, 2021

Risto Salmi, Puutarha, jossa on muuraus rakenteita ja veistoksia jäännösraudasta / Garden with masonry structures and sculptures of residual iron

pictures courtesy of Risto Salmi, 
from his website and Facebook-account

Savonlinna is a municipality with around 33000 inhabitants in South Savonia, Finland, an area known for its many lakes. 

From the point of view of art environments, the area also deserves to be known for the specific creations made by Risto Salmi, both masonry structures and a large variety of iron sculptures mainly made of scrap metal from brick kilns that needed to be renovated.

Olavi, the housekeeper

Life and works

Born in 1956, Risto Salmi after his primary education probably had a vocational training before starting to work as a bricklayer at the age of 20.

He has now worked in this profession for more than 40 years. In 2007 Salmi founded his own company called Uunisuutari Risto Salmi. His son Antin is also employed there.

As a bricklayer, Salmi gradually focused his attention on making brick kilns. In this occupation it also happened that he was asked to dismantle old ovens before building a new one.

That old material, such as shutters and rings, was usually not reused and Salmi got the idea to use these leftovers to make creations as usual in Finnish ITE art.

One of the first creations he made was the structure shown above, a kind of tower with a huge copper tile roof and four sides with a total of 75 old oven doors.

This structure was a gift to Salmi's wife on the anniversary of their wedding. It became an iconic element in the garden at their house.

Another large structure, made by Salmi in 2016,  is the pizza oven pictured above. 

It is a replica of one of the towers of Olavinlinna. a 15th-century castle, built on an island in the Kyrönsalmi strait that connects the lakes Haukivesi and Pihlajavesi. The castle is known for the Savonlinna Opera Festival, which has been held since 1912.

The round holes at the top of the tower are loopholes in the original one, and that's where the replica blows out the smoke from the internal barbecue. 

There are also sculptures made mainly of materials other than iron, such as the ensemble depicted above with two musicians and a spectator.

The musician with the guitar is Irwin Goodman (14-9-1943/14-1-1991), a popular folksinger who toured Finland for 25 years and with whom Salmi was friends. The drummer is Remu Aaltonen. And the spectator made from white concrete, wearing a black metal cap, is Finnish comedian actor Masa Niemi.

Salmi has also made creations out of wood, as the photo above shows. It is a horse made of a large number of loose wooden elements, which pulls a sled with a number of tree trunks on top. 

The construction of the horse is so sturdy that Salmi can sit on it as a rider.

In the background the picture shows kind of garden shed, also made of wooden components

a sportsman wearing a four wind cap

But the majority of Salmi's sculptures mainly have been made of metal parts from old stone ovens. 

Like the above depiction of a sportsman, probably the in Finland well known Korte-Heikki, wearing a specific Lappish cap, referred to in Finland as four wind cap.

From an early age Salmi loved to write poems and poetic texts. Examples of this can be found on his website. The way in which he uses the iron elements that form the basis of his creations, also bears witness to a great creative capacity.

The four photos (click to enlarge) grouped around also show this quality, with top left an African grandmother with a lantern in hand going to meet the grandchildren, top right a character guarding the entrance of the site, down left a bear with a pot of honey and down right a character dressed in a work apron

And then, to conclude this article, the photo below of a car that will remind many older readers of the years when they for the first time could afford a car and bought something like a second-hand Citroën 2CV ......

* Salmi's Facebook page
* Website Uunisuutari of Salmi's company, with a page with a series of photos of the creations and another one with his poetry.
* Article (July 2018) on the website of Maasedun Sivistysliitto (MSL, Association of Rural Education) by Minna Tuuva and Kimmo Heikkillä
* Video (August 2018) from Salmi's Facebook account

* Video (July 2020, 4'50", YouTube)  


Risto Salmi
Garden with built structures and a variety of sculptures of residual iron
24 Apajatie
57600 Savonlinna, South Savonia, Eastern Finland, Finland
no visits during COVID pandemic
the site could usually be visited some weekends in summer, 
see phone number on website Ounituutari

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