Rovaniemi, the official hometown of Santa Claus was in the spotlight at the travel fair held in Helsinki a few days ago. It was possible to admire at the stand of the Arctic Design Shop many Lappish handicraft products such as jewelry or textiles. One of them had especially caught my eye.
It was a very elegant wooden object with the rainbow colors. I did not understand right away what it was, but soon I got a clue after reading the name of the product: “Arctic Anal“.
Working in the stand, a tall woman with dark hair and infectious laugh confirmed to me that it was a sex toy. “They are anal plugs made of birch wood and they are manufactured in Lapland in Rovaniemi. I design them myself and they are quite popular”, she told me with a big smile giving her business card.
It was Tea Latvala, the manager of Rovaniemi’s Arctic Design Shop. Tea runs also her own brand called “Teatiamo ” for which she creates and commercializes luxurious wooden dildos. All pieces are handcrafted and really look like works of art.
Tea’s unusual calling to become a dildo designer began a few years ago in 2015 in Miami. At that time she was 37 years old, had just broke up with her ex boyfriend after a long-term relationship and was looking for new directions in her professional life.
“I met a medium in Miami; she became my coach and helped me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. One day during a meditation session, she told me suddenly: I see dildos in beautiful boxes”, reveals Latvala.
This prediction had at first confused the designer who had a Master of Arts from the Helsinki School of Arts, Design and Architecture and worked for several years in fashion as an art director. She had never imagined that one day she would become a sex toy creator.
A few months later back in Finland, Tea began to draw shapes of dildos. She wanted to create something new, sensual and elegant objects that would be sold in interior decoration and design stores rather than in sex shops.
“I wanted to create something that had nothing to do with usual silicone dildos. They are extremely ugly and the materials used are often toxic and can cause allergies. I really wanted to design an object so beautiful that it could be left on a table or bookshelves. You would not need to hide it in a drawer or to be ashamed that someone might see it”, explains the designer.
To design pleasure toys, Tea Latvala got inspiration from Finnish nature and handicraft tradition and decided to use wood. She has a very strong relationship with this material as she spent her childhood in Kurikka, a small city located in the Pohjanmaa region. Both her parents worked there in a wood refinement factory.
“Wood is a very challenging material. The development of each dildo prototype required a lot of tests. Dildo had to be beautiful but also functional, so I had to think about both its design and aerodynamic shape. Finishing process was also important, to give to the sex toy a shiny and silky shape…”, tells Tea.
Every single piece is handmade and polished with varnish. Tea uses organic varnishes whose components have been analyzed and certified for their safety and wear resistance. The designer uses for each product specific shape different wood types, such as birch, cherry, acacia, nut tree, ash tree or rosewood…
“Well kept, my dildos are totally safe and they can last a lifetime. And of course, you won’t get any splinters using them!”, specifies Latvala with a laugh.
When the designer founded her company in January 2016, she faced a lot of controversies. “At first many people tried to stain my reputation, I received a lot of criticism, dirty pictures and tasteless jokes. I was often associated with pornography. Finding investors and manufacturers was not easy”, remembers Latvala.
However, Tea did not give up; she wanted to prove that her project could succeed. With a lot of perseverance, she launched a crowdfunding campaign and found some investors to market her brand.
Latvala received also support from “Business Finland”, the Finnish State Innovation Center. This organization is funding new innovations to help Finnish brands to get global. They saw in Latvala’s project a great opportunity to export Finnish wooden design products.
Just in a short time attitudes changed a lot, and the designer received a lot of publicity in the Finnish media. Suddenly Teatiamo products began to have success. Last year, the company made a turnover of €100 000.
In 2018 the biggest part of the Teatimo market was in Finland, but Latvala’s brand could rise soon internationally. “My products have been exhibited in art galleries and showrooms in Miami and in California. Teatiamo designs are already on sale in Tom of Finland stores in the USA and I started to market my brand also in Germany, England and Japan”, tells Tea.
The designer is very happy of what she achieved in a few years time. She also got married and moved with her husband to Lapland in Rovaniemi a year and a half ago.
“In Rovaniemi people are very proud of my Arctic Anals products. They are entirely manufactured there. Some dildos are still manufactured in Poland but I wish to transfer all the production cycle in Rovaniemi. It will offer work and benefit local artisans”, declares Latvala.
Tea is a talented designer but also an amazing businesswoman. She uses a lot of humor to market and advertise her products. Her business card is quite funny with this catch phrase: Art up your ass. She organized a contest to find the name of her latest butt plug on social media. It was her sister who found the name : Arctic Anal. Someone else suggested also this savory name: Born under Analis Borealis.
“Humor is essential in my work. The product description in merchandising must be funny. People find it easier to approach that kind of objects laughing ”, says Tea.
Finland is always well ranked as one of the most innovative countries in the world. Many Finnish brands are globally known such as Nokia, Fiskars, Kone, Marimeko or Rovio (Angry Birds). So be ready for Teatiamo, Tea’s wooden design products may soon invade the world.
And the next time you visit Finland, get yourself a great souvenir of Lapland. Even if you don’t use it, it will still be a magnificent piece of art that you can always display at home as an interior design accessory next to an Alvar Aalto glass vase.