Portrait of an Old Man Wearing Tuohi

Portrait of an Old Man Wearing Tuohi is a portrait of the folk artist Erkki Pekkarinen. Born in North Karelia near the Russian border, Erkki is a quintessential man of the woods. For his entire life he has been crafting objects out of birch bark, known in Finnish as ‘tuohi’. Recognised as the ‘tuohi master’, Erkki perceives the world around him with a compassionate intuition. “I can tell the difference between a good and a bad birch tree by looking at it”, the craftsman says. It is as Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, that those who spend “their lives in the fields and woods, in a peculiar sense a part of Nature themselves, are often in a more favourable mood for observing her… We are most interested when science reports what those men already know practically or instinctively, for that alone is a true humanity, or account of human experience.”