Ely Township teen creates wood-burned art

ISHPEMING – Aaren Joki is keeping wood out of landfills in a most artistic way.

Joki, 19, of Ely Township creates intricate wood-burned art pieces, some of which are maps of places of local interest, such as the Upper Peninsula and Finland, and surrounded by drawings of other U.P. cultural places such as the Superior Dome, ski jumping and mines.

“I like to do artwork based on historical subjects,” Joki said. “And then I do a lot of Finnish-style artwork.”

People can see examples of his art on his still-in-the-making website of his company, Metsami Creations (www.metsamicreations.com), where it’s called “a cottage industry specializing in rustic artworks, products, and services based on use of natural materials.”

Metsami means “woodland” in Finnish, Joki said.

“I’ve always been a good artist, ever since I was 2 years old,” he said.

And he’s self-taught too.

Many people might not remember being 2 years old, but his father Kevin concurs with his son’s statement.

“He skipped the stick figure and went right into trying to draw in depth and in 3D,” he said.

Joki, a graduate of Westwood High School, has been selling his art, with some pieces taking 60 to 70 hours to create.

“When I see his stuff sell, I feel worse than Aaren,” his father said. “I get attached to it more than Aaren.”

Joki first starts a design on paper, then goes to wood – a material that works well for him in his art.

“You can get your materials anywhere, and it’s a little bit safer than metalworking,” Joki said.

Joki said he gets his wood from various sources.

“I use a lot of wood people don’t want,” Joki said.

He also built a wood kiln, which he said is in the prototype stage of using its waste heat to heat his worm farm.

Speaking of which, Joki lives the sustainable lifestyle in another way: He maintains the worm farm at home, composting horse manure using worms.

“It’s better for gardens,” he said of the resulting compost. “It’s less acidic and has less nitrogen that can burn the plants. It’s more balanced.”

Ever the inventor, Joki also wants to build a computer-controlled rocket stove to heat his kiln, using a computer to run a motor to put pellets in the stove.

Joki plans to continue to hone his wood-burning artistic skills and is considering attending Finlandia University.

That might be appropriate. This explains Joki’s art on his website: “It is rich in the culture, from the native Americans and Immigrants of the Great Lakes area all the way across the globe to northern Europe and the tundra of Sapmi.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.