I cannot let this week pass without offering my own story regarding Oppi Untracht, who has just died, aged 85. For all in the world of art metalworking, Oppi's book, “Metal Techniques for Craftsmen” was the bible of the 1960's, and I am still the proud possessor of a copy,  above.

In August 1970, on my Helen Rose Bequest Travelling Scholarship from Edinburgh College of Art, I had been staying in Helsinki when someone recommended that I visit a most unusual craft shop in the small and unremarkable town of Porvoo, about 40 miles from there. “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” was showing in the local cinema, as it had done every summer since the film's premiere in 1953.  In the main square I found the craft shop, with strange, oversized pewter ducks inhabiting the window. Inside, I was first struck by a wall of brightly coloured shallow Italian glass plates, and as I cast around immediately noticed a pile of Oppi's books. In English I exclaimed to the woman behind the counter that I too had a copy of that book. “Would you like to meet the author?” she asked. Gobsmacked, I replied in the affirmative! 

It turned out that the woman to whom I had spoken had been Saara Hopea, at the time Finland's leading female designer, owner of the craft shop and, coincidentally wife of the American author, Oppi Untracht.

After a brief phone-call I was on my way to their neighbouring apartment and a most enjoyable visit. Oppi was a fascinating person, and at the time a collector of Nepalese artworks. The flat felt more like a museum, stuffed as it was with ornate Nepalese furniture, wall hangings, pottery and silver. I, the fool did not have the presence of mind to have a photo taken, but I can offer his business card, carefully preserved for the last 38 years.


Oppi Untracht
July 2008