The family of Eva-Lisa and Ain Kollo moved into the Ansuvälja farm – house 19 years ago. Their initial structural and furnishing plan turned out to be so good that there has been no need to make major changes to the layout.
Ansuvälja third-farm in Paenase village, Muhu.
Built at the beginning of the previous century, the farm- house serves as the Kollo family home since 2002.
Eva-Lisa, born in Tallinn, graduated from the Tartu Art School, worked for a while in the Estonia Theatre, came to Muhu through marriage, she is a poster child for life-long learning.
Ain, born in the Tiri farm, Nautse village, has lived on the Muhu Island his whole life, providing many locals with jobs and livelihood as an entrepreneur.
On this fine April day in the second corona spring when we visited Ansuvälja, the siblings who had come home to celebrate the 15th birthday of Anna-Lisa, the youngest of the family, included her oldest brother Karl with his partner Maria and their seven month old daughter Iida, her sister Liisa, and her brother Henri from military service with his girlfriend Grete. According to the landlady Eva-Lisa, the biggest change around the house in recent times has been, in fact, the need to get a new, much longer dining table. After all, there should be enough room around the table for the four children of the family, as well as their partners and the long awaited first grandchild. The same all encompassing care, respect and domestic warmth was afforded to us as visitors as well. The ideas and conversations tended to revolve around future plans rather than past achievements; while the family would have quite a bit to brag about, they have a modest disposition, and instead their achievements are reflected in the photos.
Fit for a large family, the farmstead in the village of Paenase on the island of Muhu was not completely unknown to its new residents. When Ain was looking for a new home for his family in the early 2000s, Lidia, the previous landlady of Ansuvälja, had recently “gone to the angels”. He managed to buy the place and do something that, normally, one cannot do while sharing their home farm with their parents – empty out the whole house, and draw a plan of rooms, stairs and fl oors that was exactly suitable for his family.
It is no wonder that this major undertaking succeeded. With a natural talent for turning her hand to anything and possessing an excellent aesthetic sense, Eva-Lisa has yet further educated herself after graduating from the Tartu Art School, whereas Ain had set up the Muhu Timber Workshop long before starting to rebuild the farm and is well versed in woodworking.
Rose-painted tray and chair in a vintage pink dress
For many years, the mother of the large family worked from home. She decorated wood items with marvellous pictures of fl owers that grew in or behind her farmyard. From bleeding hearts, poppies, and mayweeds to cornfl owers and lady’s-slipper orchids. Her paintings decorated old-fashioned clock faces, jewellery boxes, wooden trays, and occasionally even a dining table or a chest, made to order at Ain’s workshop. It was a way to earn a living, by selling time consuming fi ne handicrafts to tourists during the summer season. After ten years, Eva-Lisa had had enough. Now, she has a new major hobby, passion, challenge and source of professional pride!
After all of her children but the youngest, Anna-Lisa, had left home, Eva-Lisa enrolled in a course of furniture restoration at Kuressaare Regional Training Centre. Two years of training with renowned instructor Marek Tarkin provided her with the basics. In a couple of years, she has given new life to many chairs and sofas but, in her own words, there is still much that she cannot do. “Of course, I’m a nitpicker,” Eva-Lisa says candidly. She is full of praise for her teacher, upholstery craftsman Timo Talvik who lives in Tallinn and works in the company Omit. According to her, Timo is always there to help her solve issues with more complex tasks, to share his experience in great detail, and to comfort and encourage her whenever it seems that the work is ruined. For the 15th birthday of her youngest daughter, she made a chair in a pink dress, with legs properly hidden behind tassels, but the seat cushioning turned out to be so strong and sturdy that it would be no problem to pose there for the next hundred years. Only the dress would need to be changed.
Eva-Lisa is happy to go to work every Monday. Her restoration workshop is set up at Piiri, in her husband’s ‘spoon factory’, where a male worker can help her lift heavier items when necessary. There is no shortage of orders. If there is anything that she misses in Muhu, this island of the happiest people, it is perhaps the opportunity to enjoy theatre, exhibitions, ballet and other forms of culture. Driving to the capital or even farther is not cheap and not something one can do every day.
At home, however, the roles have gradually switched – while the lady of the house delves into the secrets of finer restoration work, different timbers, springs, seagrasses and fabrics, the father of the family, Ain, is increasingly seen in the garden, pruning apple trees, fixing the stone fence, making raised beds and creating comfortable spots for his wife to rest. The latest example is a greenhouse that looks almost like a summer porch. There are many fi ne changes that have been made to the hundred year old essence of Ansuvälja. But the blossoms in the flower garden are still the same that can be seen on the family’s rose patterned quilts or Muhu stockings.
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