A blog sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Sharing news and information about the Great Lakes Folk Festival, Quilt Index, the MSU Museum's traditional arts activities, Great Lakes traditional artists and arts resources, and much more. Development of content for this blog supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

SPACES features Michigan's John Jacob Makinen Sr.

Photo courtesy the Kavela Historical Society

Artist John Jacob Makinen Sr.'s work has been featured by SPACES, a nonprofit dedicated to identifying, documenting, and advocating for the preservation of large-scale art environments. Makinen's work was also featured in the 1978 MSU Museum exhibit "Rainbows in the Sky."

Here is the description of the artist's work from the SPACES website:

Makinen immigrated from his native Finland to Michigan in 1903; his early years in his new country were spent farming and working in a general store. In 1922 he became partners with Alex Ketonen to form the Northwestern Bottling Works. This company specialized in bottling carbonated soft drinks and, in fact, it is claimed that the term “pop,” referring to these sodas, originated here, as sometimes the corks could not withstand the pressure of the carbonated contents, and would explode with a large “pop” sound.
Around 1909 Makinen decided to ornament an ice house on his farm; it is thought to have been the first bottle-clad house in the state of Michigan. He found that the bottles provided an excellent insulation barrier, as they trapped air within. Some years later, around 1932, he was faced with a large surplus of bottles when the bottling technology changed at the plant, and, recalling the ice house, built a storehouse from the extra bottles, spelling out his company’s name in contrasting colors.
Following his retirement in 1939, Makinen decided to leave the farm and, in Kaleva, build a one and one-half-story bungalow with a foundation of rock-faced concrete blocks and an intersecting gable roof, using the remaining surplus bottles from the Bottling Works plant. Approximately 60,000 bottles were used in the Kaleva house, laid horizontally with their bottom end facing the exterior so that the framework studs could fit between the bottle necks (and, not coincidentally, so that the bottle bottoms marked with the mold from the company could be seen). Makinen carefully laid levels of the bottles with a specifically developed mortar between the brick corners. There are many different varieties, shapes, and colors of bottles that were used in the construction, including those for soda drinks, wine, beer, and liqueurs. Different patterns were created with the bottles; the most prominent are the words “HAPPY HOME,” which are spelled out on the front fa├žade, and dark bottles accent the window openings.
Unfortunately, Makinen passed away just shortly before the house was completed, but his widow, Maria, lived there for many years. Following her death, in 1980 the Kaleva Historical Society purchased the home, which renovated it to house the Kaleva Historical Museum, which moved in that following year. The building currently operates as a museum, with a collection of local 19th-  and 20th-century artifacts that tell of the Finnish settlers’ lives in farming and business, and it is also the focus of the local ethnic Finnish celebrations. The building is listed on the Michigan Register of Historical Sites (1982) and the National Register of Historical Sites (1987). It is open weekend afternoons 12-4 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
~Jo Farb Hernández

More about SPACES:

SPACES is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) public benefit organization that was incorporated in 1978 for the purposes of identifying, documenting, and advocating for the preservation of large-scale art environments. Founding director Seymour Rosen conceived of SPACES as a national (and, later, an international) organization; currently operating out of offices in northern California, it boasts an archives of approximately 35,000 photographs as well as numerous books, articles, audio and video tapes/DVDs, and artists’ documents.