LisbonInsideOut: Saara, a Finnish Graphic Designer

What is LisbonInsideOut?

LisbonInsideOut is a new interview series that I’ve created to learn why foreign people, that live or have lived in Lisbon, chose this city and what they love about it.

This week I’m introducing you to Saara, a Finnish graphic designer that fell in love with Lisbon and its light on a holiday and decided to come back here to study her Master’s. She loves finding inspiration everywhere, including trash, hence why she created an Instragram account solely dedicated to Lisbon’s pretty trash.

Who is Saara?

Saara is a talented creative who goes by @saarahelkala on Instagram. I’ve had the chance to meet her in person twice and she is a lovely lady. I love her caligraphy work and the colorful pictures she posts of Lisbon. She’s not sure if she’s staying here after her Master’s so she’s enjoying every second of her stay here!

Saara Helkala

What made you move to Lisbon?

I came here for a holiday and I fell in love with the city: the overall vibe, sun, wine, good food, friendly people but mostly the amazing light.
Somehow I also felt like Portuguese people were a bit similar to Finnish: not too loud and happy all the time and also having the melancholic “Fado-side”.
I had been thinking of moving abroad for years, but never made it happen because I felt like it would be so hard to give up on my beautiful apartment, my dream job and of course also my friends. But suddenly I just felt a kind of “it’s now or never” -feeling.
Of course no one believed my story about “falling in love with the light”. Everyone assumed there was a guy.

How long have you been here?  

I moved here in June 2015, so it´s been 1 year and almost 8 months.

What do you do/what is your profession? 

I’m a graphic designer but I do a lot of different things: besides design, I also illustrate and write. I’ve been working with graphic design for the last 10 years, doing a lot of different things. Before coming here I had a job as an Art Director in a magazine. Now I’m doing a Master’s in Design and Visual Culture here in Lisbon, so right now I’m trying to focus on my thesis. My thesis is about the future of handwriting.

What is your favorite place in the city, and why?

There are so many! After moving to Lisbon, I’ve started a new habit: I try to drink coffee outside every single day, since the warm weather permits it. I love Portuguese coffee and especially all the charming kiosks. People watching just never tires me. I’d say one of my very favorite places is the purple kiosk at Praça das Flores. Of course I also love all the miradouros and gardens.

If you could take something from Lisbon home, what would it be?

Oranges! It might sound crazy, but the oranges in Portugal are just the tastiest ever. I’m totally addicted! I also wish I could somehow capture the light in the summer, around 8.30 pm, when the whole city looks like a movie setting with the pastel colors, approaching sunset and the warm weather mixed together. That’s my favorite thing.

What is the one thing you miss about Finland?

Apart from family and friends, I really miss the food: rye bread, smoked salmon, fresh berries and of course the liquorice candy! I never thought I’d be one of those people missing the food from their countries because it seems so ridiculous, but now I do the same. But I don’t miss Finnish coffee at all, it’s just awful!

I know you’re doing your Master’s here, have you find it easy to integrate with the class?

Even though I’m doing a Master’s, most people in my class are a lot younger than me, so the age difference and the fact that my Portuguese is not very fluent has been an issue a bit. But I’ve made some nice friends.

Any other interesting facts worth mentioning?

Lisbon still inspires me every single day, in normal everyday life. That’s why I’ve dedicated an Instagram account to pretty trash in Lisbon: @ihavethisthingwithtrash

Where can you follow Saara’s adventures?

Saara wears many hats! You can check out her work portfolio here. If you would like to get inspired by her photos try browsing through her personal Instagram account or her unique project @ihavethisthingwithtrash. She also has a blog where she writes about a variety of topics, mostly in Finnish!

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