30 years of working with Moomin mugs – what is it like recreating Tove Jansson’s original illustrations?

After 30 years of adapting Tove Jansson’s original illustrations for the Moomin mugs, Moomin by Arabia’s illustrator Tove Slotte is now retiring. Find out what it has been like to live with the Moomins for so long, what the process behind the Moomin mugs looks like and what are the challenges of choosing and recreating the original Moomin illustrations.

Tove Slotte, the illustrator of the popular Moomin by Arabia mugs, has retired. Slotte has worked on Moomin mugs and other Moomin by Arabia products since the beginning of the 1990s and has designed more than 100 Moomin mugs, the latest of which is this winter’s seasonal mug “Winter Wonders”.

The inspiration for Slotte’s work comes from Tove Jansson’s original illustrations, which Slotte then adjust to the mugs, plates, bowls and other dishes.

A Moomin fan from a young age

The Moomins have always been close to Tove Slotte’s heart. “In school, we could decide for ourselves what we wanted to draw. I always drew Moomintrolls, it was my favourite motif,” Slotte says.

 “I believe that everyone should get to enjoy a bit of Moomin philosophy every day”.

When she started working on the mugs more than 30 years ago, Slotte couldn’t imagine that drawing the lovely characters would end up being her lifework. The popularity of the dishes grew slowly in the beginning, but it didn’t take long until a real Moomin boom started.

Misabel mug is a favourite

Even after 30 years, Jansson’s books and comics still continue to inspire Slotte. In fact, her atelier looks like a miniature Moominworld with lots of Moomin items and illustrations from the past 30 years.

“I think the most fun mug to do was the Misabel one because I have always liked Misabel, and I feel that she’s one of the main characters. I don’t think everyone thinks the same way, but I know that she was special to Tove Jansson, too. In many old illustrations where Tove Jansson has gathered different Moomin characters, Misabel is always included.”

Slotte draws all Moomin mugs by her desk, usually a couple of years before the products go into production. Seeing a finalized mug is always a special moment for Slotte. “It’s always very emotional. The illustrations look so different when they are glazed. Sometimes the colours can look slightly different than what I originally thought. Sometimes there’s still time to change them, sometimes not.”

New design team taking over

Despite her retirement, Moomin fans will still get to enjoy her designs in the coming years, as the mugs are most often designed a few years before their launch. Moomin by Arabia’s new design team consists of designer Annika Tickle and illustrator Parvati Pillai

“The Moomins could be considered a national treasure for Finland, and I’m very proud to get to work with them,” Tickle comments.

Watch a mini-documentary about Tove Slotte

We visited Tove Slotte’s studio to find out what it has been like to live with the Moomins for so long. Press play on the video above and step into her studio to learn more about her history with the Moomin mugs and the time she met Tove Jansson.