The original initiative that transformed a dying village into a thriving vacation spot

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Gazing at the stars from your own bed in a miniature house in a Finnish field is an unusual way to experience a biennial – but that’s what you get in Fiskars, the most unusual of villages. This is where the second Fiskars Village Biennial of Art and Design takes place (until September) in southwestern Finland.

If Fiskars sounds familiar to you but you haven’t been there yet, you probably have a pair of orange-handled scissors that the company is best known for, tucked away somewhere. Having started life as an ironworks in the mid-17th century, it was named after the village where it was based until a sales boom in the 1980s meant it outgrew its old factories.

Ten years later, as village life was dying and the old warehouses and workrooms were emptying, a Fiskars executive, Ingmar Lindberg, had a brilliant idea. The company, which makes gardening tools and owns a series of brands such as Wedgwood, Waterford Crystal and Royal Doulton, is said to entice some of Helsinki’s top artists and designers to move to Fiskars in return for cheap rent.

A realized brain wave

The initiative was a wild success and today the community of 600 people is a magnet for creatives, from top furniture makers and ceramists to jewelry designers and painters, who live in the old industrial buildings and workmen’s cottages dotted along a gentle river and among sloping forest paths.

Fiskars is also a popular tourist destination, welcoming around 200,000 visitors each year, attracted by its cycle paths, industrial history and the best souvenir shops in Finland, if not the world. It’s easy to get there, an hour’s drive west of Helsinki, or there are trains and buses to nearby Karjaa and local buses or taxis for the final 15km hop to Fiskars.

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