Get to know… Annamari Mikkola, a New Canaan artist, website designer and new member of the town’s Technology Advisory Committee
NEW CANAAN — 4,000 miles. That’s the distance between New Canaan and Uusikaupunki, Finland, a small town in the southwest part of the country where Annamari Mikkola is originally from.
“I go back to Finland at least once a year. My parents and two brothers still live there,” Mikkola said. “My children can understand Finnish but speaking it can be a bit more difficult.”
Mikkola first ventured to the United States for a long-term stay back when she studied for one year at the University of California, Berkeley. Before returning back home, she went to New York City where she met her husband.
“We got married in Finland in 1996, came back to the States and have been here ever since,” the 50-year-old said. The couple moved to New Canaan in 2005.
An artist by nature — she got her first camera at age seven — Mikkola has focused on different artistic endeavors ranging from photography, jewelry design, writing and web design throughout her life.
“I have always been designing. Art, one way or another, has always been my thing,” Mikkola said.
Jewelry designing, which she took up once she made the United States her home, caught her attention.
“I started it because I thought I could do everything with it. I started the beading and designing with silver metal clay and eventually got into 3D designing,” Mikkola said.
One of the necklaces she designed, Nymphaea, was a finalist in the Precious Metal Clay (PMC) division for the Saul Bell Design Award Competition in 2006. The PMC category requires that the material be “either silver or gold” and an “original design.”
“Even being a finalist was a big deal, especially for me,” Mikkola said with a slight smile.
A political science student back in the day, journalism also once appealed greatly to Mikkola. Writing, coupled with photography, provided her with an insight into the lives of others while still in Finland.
“I was really interested in talking to people and finding out about things. I’m a very curious person, I’m always looking for experiences and I love writing. Once I moved here I didn’t feel like I could start that again with a new language but I still maintain my photography,” Mikkola explained.
Currently, Mikkola’s “bread and butter” is website design, a job that calls the attention of local businesses and also Town Hall. She was recently appointed as one of the two Democratic members in the five-person Selectmen Technology Advisory Committee formed at the end of February.
The committee seeks to find ways in which technology can make town government more efficient and convenient for residents, vendors and service providers.
“Most current problems can be solved with pre-existing applications. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and code something from scratch when the solution has already been developed and tested by someone else,” Mikkola said.
This is Mikkola’s first foray into a Town Hall position though the committee is more about “techies” than political ideas, she said. She joined the Democratic Town Committee about six months ago, transitioning from an observer into a more active role in the community.
“I’m part of a small group that engages in grassroots activism — 203 Action — and we inform each other about little things we can do like making a phone call to our representatives,” Mikkola said.
To unwind, the Finn takes to rowing at the Saugatuck Club in Westport. Just last year, her boat of eight won gold at the Head of the Schuylkill regatta in Philadelphia.
“It’s so addictive and it just started out as a hobby,” she said. Another precious metal to add to her personal collection.