Sera Helsinki Ethical Rugs Empowering Vulnerable Communities

26th February 2019
A beautifully textured wool rug designed by Sera Helsinki styled in a Scandinavian living room.

An understated beauty – the Laine, handwoven in Ethiopia and styled the Finnish way.

Yet again Instagram has unearthed a beautiful design discovery that I had to share with you, this time in the form of SERA HELSINKI. This ethical rug company is helping to create an inclusive community and lift it out of poverty.

Friends Hanna Puharinen and Anna Suoheimo met at Aalto University in 2001 during their six-year Science Masters, sharing a passion for interior design. When Anna moved to Ethiopia with her family in 2010, she witnessed first hand the desperate situations that people with disabilities and single mothers faced, with extreme poverty offering no other option than to turn to begging on the streets. Compelled to make positive changes to the community, the pair set about training and supporting a community of weavers and artisans, empowering them with skills and a fair income.

A black and white photograph of a rug weaver trimming the wool with scissors.

Photography © Aida Muluneh.

Black and white photograph of four Sera Helsinki weavers sitting at a loom together.

Sera Helsinki weavers sit together to create a large scale design. Photo © Aida Muluneh.

Taken from the Amharic word for ‘work’, SERA combines Finnish design sensibilities with traditional Ethiopian hand craftsmanship. The lambswool is locally sourced from farmers in the northern highlands of Ethiopia and the thread made by hand by the women in their families. Without intrusion from chemical processing, the natural colours of the wool allow the weavers to create the soothing tones and textures in the new Saaristo collection, designed by Anna Pirkola. Beginning in 2016 with just 8 weavers has grown into a 100 strong team, most of whom are blind. The intricate designs showcase exquisite artisanal woven wool rugs, cotton towels and leather bags. 

A tonal white tufted wool rug minimally styled, designed by Sera Helsinki.

Raised tufts and a flatwoven base makes the Laine so very tactile.

a weaver hand trimming and finishing a rug designed by Sera Helsinki.

Hand finishing a rug. Photo © Aida Muluneh.

The criss-crossed Valli wool rug designed by Anna Pirkola for Sera Helsinki, handmade in Ethiopia.

A mix of black and grey wool fibres again the natural white give depth to the Valli, designed by Anna Pirkola.

A beautiful focal point for any Scandinavian interior, the rugs are made to order and take approximately 2-3 weeks to produce. I’ve completely fallen for Sera Helsinki for striving to support and empower the local community in Ethiopia and for translating all that love and skill into a jaw-droppingly beautiful collection of ethical rugs. What a wonderful reminder to have in your home of the positive effects a social enterprise such as this can have. I’d happily have any of these grace the floor in my home one day…wouldn’t you?

The Laine rug in brown, designed by Sera Helsinki.

Brown and natural white flat woven rug, designed by Anna Pirkola for Sera Helsinki.

Subtle chequerboard pattern in the flat woven ‘Palsta‘.

Handwoven knotted wool rug in brown and natural white, designed by Sera Helsinki.

Valli in brown provides a soothing base for a statement chair.

Photography courtesy of SERA HELSINKI, with thanks.