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Puppetry is Kerttu Aaltonen’s lifelong work
Kerttu Aaltonen.

Puppetry is Kerttu Aaltonen’s lifelong work

  • Kerttu Aaltonen's enthusiasm for puppetry traces its roots back to a lullaby from Lapland and a doll named Pipsa placed on top of a piano. As the youngest in a family of five, Kerttu felt it was unfair that she didn't have a single doll of her own, despite having a strong desire to play with them.

At times, Kerttu would sneakily borrow her older sister’s doll without permission, but most of the time, she had to settle for makeshift toys she crafted herself – like folding a pillow in half with a string in the middle and using her vivid imagination to pretend it was a doll.

Kertun askartelemat lampaat pöydällä.

One day, after her grandparents’ golden wedding celebration, a moment of joy and fortune arrived unexpectedly. Kerttu had learned Lapland’s lullaby by ear from the radio and sang it all the way from Salon Kiikala to Ilomantsi in North Karelia. Her singing was so captivating that she was asked to perform in front of the audience at the celebration.

The audience, too, was thrilled by her performance and donated coins into a hat that was passed around for the young performer.

We collected so much money that we traveled separately to Helsinki to buy a doll. So, with my first earnings, I bought my own doll,” Kerttu Aaltonen recalls.

However, the Pipsa doll she brought back from the capital was so elegantly dressed in a tulle skirt that her parents felt it wasn’t suitable for play but rather as decoration on top of the piano. Eventually, Pipsa’s fate was sealed when the family dog, Jeppe, managed to knock it off the piano and pull out its hair.

-Perhaps that piano left an impression on me, which is why I thought about a name for my own puppet theater, Kerttu speculates.

Kerttu kesän teematorilla.

Puppets eventually became Kerttu’s life’s work. She became enchanted with the world of puppetry while studying to become a kindergarten teacher in Jyväskylä.

-On the entrance exam day, I saw handcrafted puppets made by students in the school corridor, and I thought to myself, ‘I have to get in here.’ There was something about the puppets that really appealed to me.”

Kerttu was accepted into the program and, together with other puppetry enthusiasts, they began making puppets and performing plays. Practical experience honed her skills in the art, and soon the puppetry performances of her fellow students were seen at events and even on television.

After graduation, their paths diverged, but Kerttu continued her involvement with puppetry in Salo, where she moved for work.

We toured the Salo region with another kindergarten teacher interested in the same subject, and we took all possible courses and training related to it.

Kerttu valkoinen satuhahmo sylissään.

Puppetry has been a part of Kerttu Aaltonen’s life for over five decades. The puppets and stories accompanied her during a move to Vakka-Suomi in the 1980s. At the age of fifty, she embarked on a professional puppetry qualification program in Pieksämäki while working. Her thesis was performed at the Uusikaupunki theater.

In Uusikaupunki, Kerttu established her own company, Nukketeatteri Piironginlaatikko, which is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year.

-The world of puppets has always fascinated me immensely. It feels wonderful to use imagination and immerse myself in stories,” Kerttu says. The energy from the audience sustains me. Children are very honest and open viewers. I feel like I can captivate them quite well during performance.

Kerttu worked in a daycare center until retirement age. Then, at the earliest opportunity, she retired, allowing her to devote all her free time to puppetry.

Myllymuorin seikkailuun osallistujia Vaakahuoneella.

Piironginlaatikko continues to provide entertainment for the youngest members of the family in Uusikaupunki and the surrounding areas.

In November, Kerttu and her daughter Karoliina Lehmusvirta released a book called “Huopalan hiiret ja luonnon lumo” (The Mice of Huopala and the Enchantment of Nature) through their collaboration. In March, Nukketeatteri Piironginlaatikon’s 40th-anniversary exhibition will open to the public at the Runonkulma Gallery, and during the summer, families can once again participate in the adventures of Myllymuori throughout Uusikaupunki.

-Perhaps it’s less known that puppetry is also available for adults.

Ansan and Taunon’s puppetry couplet has toured the local area, bringing joy especially to the elderly,” Kerttu mentions.

Kunniakirja vuodelta 2015 kehyksissä.

Kerttu Aaltonen has rightfully received recognition for her long career. She was awarded the Uusikaupunki Cultural Achievement of the Year in 2005 and the Uusikaupunki Tourist Guides’ Rose of the Year in 2015. Additionally, she was awarded the Myrskyssä youth project by the Finnish Cultural Foundation for her cultural work with young people in 2010.

-It’s really enjoyable to do puppetry in Uusikaupunki. There are all sorts of skilled individuals and partners here. I am extremely grateful for all the support and assistance I have received over these years.”

So, how long does Kerttu Aaltonen plan to continue with puppetry?

-I’ll keep doing it as long as I have breath,” she responds with a cheerful laugh.

Is this conversation helpful so far? on Uudenkaupungin kaupungin elinkeinopalveluiden julkaisu, jossa tuodaan esiin uusikaupunkilaista asumista ja elämäntapaa.
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