August 25, 2014
“People are hives…”
— Virginia Woolf
Once in a while, you meet someone who really makes you stop for a moment, and think a little differently about how you view the world. It might be the inflection in her voice, the way she phrases words like a singer would, how her eyes twinkle when she engages you in conversation, or how she can explain a point of view on any given matter with refreshing earnestness. Sanna Russo, who has worked in the MacKenzie-Childs furniture decorating department for nearly twenty years, is most definitely one of those people. I’ve observed her over the years as she sits at her decorating station quietly working away on countless projects, some of incredible complexity and demanding of exceptional skills; she’s like a one-woman arts-and-crafts movement! Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to catch up with Sanna and learn a bit more about exactly what makes her tick.
She grew up on a small farm in Finland among a very interesting family of five: her father a farmer, and her mother a farmer’s wife who was also a sculptor, whose pursuit in the arts was very active throughout the ’80s and ’90s. The entire family cherished education, and Sanna credits her mother for helping encourage her talent in painting and the arts. She claims this early training as a child is where she first developed her ability to see things dimensionally, constantly studying light and shadow while observing her mother sculpting gypsum cast reliefs and busts. In addition to her unbelievable skills with a brush, Sanna is also an incredible and avid knitter, trained in traditional Scandinavian techniques.
She adores where she now lives, tucked away in a quiet corner of the Finger Lakes. Despite the onward rush of society, satellite television, and the ubiquitous Internet, she feels people here are still profoundly connected to nature and the earth. This is important to her in that it’s exactly how she grew up; she even knows how to drive a workhorse! (How many people do you know who can do that?) Sanna also loves the very diverse and colorful nature of her colleagues at MacKenzie-Childs and deeply appreciates the idea of sharing stories of our experiences as a way of contributing to each other.
True to her old-world heritage, where everyone absorbs knowledge and skills from the older generation, Sanna is also an exceptional cabinet maker. At the age of seven, her father gave her a carving knife as a birthday present because he grew tired of her dulling, or sometimes even losing, his carving knives. Today, her left hand is full of scars earned while learning woodcarving. Sanna went on to attend Lahti Institute of Industrial Design in Finland. Her teacher once said “I will never be able to teach you all what you can do, but I can show you what you should not do.” And finally: “Don’t cut your fingers off!”
Today we all feel so fortunate to be able to work side-by-side with such a wonderful talent, and incredibly precious person.
Sanna Russo, furniture decorator since 1996.