Utilizing local reindeer bone waste from Lapland in ceramics

Posted on November 2019

The number of reindeers in northern Finland reaches over 200,000 each year, which is even greater than the population of people in the region. While the meat, leather, fur and antlers of these animals are consumed, most of the reindeer bone remain as waste material and a by-product of the industry. Taking the concerns about sustainability into account, recycling of such waste material can create new possibilities and collaborations in the Lapland region.

In England, there is a long tradition of recycling cattle bones into clay body –known as bone china– in an industrial scale. The use of bone china is mainly due to the distinctive and unique white and translucent aesthetic properties; and the qualities in strength allows producing finer ceramic pieces. Reindeer bones can become a local alternative to develop bone china from Finland.

Around 15 years ago, the municipality of Sodankylä, through an EU funded project led by Seppo Kaaretkoski and managed by Maija Vepsäläinen with the help of British experts, started to develop the reindeer bone waste as a new material for ceramics. The reindeer bone china body, resulted from this development, was found to be very successful by many international professionals in terms of firing stability, color and beautiful translucency. In spite of the significant amount of research and results carried out during the EU project, starting the actual production with the chosen methods proved to be far too expensive, which caused the project to fade away.

Before the EU funded project in Sodankylä, Aalto University (previous known as University of Arts and Design Helsinki) was also partly looking into the possibilities of the reindeer bone ash. Maarit Mäkelä, who is currently running the project together with Jouni Partanen, had an opportunity to use the reindeer bone porcelain created by the research group led by Airi Hortling at that time.

The first stage of the larger 3DKERA project, in cooperation with the Department of Design and Department of Mechanical Engineering, revisits this idea and incorporates contemporary means of production to utilize the local reindeer bone waste in ceramics. Project brings different stakeholders together from the northern parts of Finland and in the capital area, to create new opportunities for local businesses and tourism in the region. By introducing the 3D printing technology into this framework, the aim is to explore an alternative way of handling the material and to have a faster and more economical ground for testing and reaching tangible outcomes. Because 3D printing is an independent and democratic mode of production, it can be valuable in the context of Lapland to create small-scale local business.

 

Visiting a reindeer farm in Sodankylä. Photo: Nur Horsanali

Results from the previous research together with new 3D printed samples. Photo: Nur Horsanali

Closer look to reindeer bones. Photo: Nur Horsanali

In November, some of the project partners made a visit to Lapland. The purpose of the visit was to understand the local context better and to gather different stakeholders together through workshops, visits and discussions. During this intensive trip, the group had the opportunity to visit the archives (of the previous project in Sodankylä), reindeer herders and slaughtering houses. During the visit, Aalto University held workshops and gave demonstrations of clay 3D printing to locals and the project partners. From Sodankylä the trip continued to Posio, where the group continued to visiting our partners in the Arctic Ceramic Center. There was also a great pleasure to visit the locals like the Pentik ceramics factory and the Miki Studio. Our partners in Lapland kindly welcomed our research team and the meetings held with local stakeholders led to further discussions on the project. The project has featured in the newspapers Lapin Kansa and Sompio.

 

Photographs from the workshops held in Sodankylä. Photos: Nur Horsanali

Visiting Arctic Ceramic Center premises and founder Reijo Lantto showing the self-built wood firing kiln. Photos: Nur Horsanali

Project team visiting Arctic Ceramic Center in Posio. From left to right: Kirsi Kukko, Reijo Lantto, Marko Nieminen, Jukka Lokka, Maarit Mäkelä, Jouni Partanen, Ashish Mohite, Tomi Pelkonen, Priska Falin.
Photo: Nur Horsanali

3DKERA project is partly funded by the Business Finland Co-Creation program.

Project Team: Maarit Mäkelä, Priska Falin, Tomi Pelkonen, Nur Horsanali (Aalto ARTS) Jouni Partanen, Kirsi Kukko, Ashish Mohite (Aalto ENG)

Project Partners: Aalto University, Sodankylä Municipality, Arctic Ceramic Center (Posio), Kieringin Lomakylä, Kerasil, 3DTech, Fiskars