Tag Archives: modern hipster

Vintage Canadiana: Eija Seras

One of my not-so-guilty pleasures has been catching up on all the episodes of Backyard Bounty on the Cottage Life channel. Hosts Marty and Bam Bam drive around southern Ontario visiting yard sales, homes of collectors (aka hoarders), country thrift stores, and people who have a lot of stuff they want to get rid of. Marty also runs an antique business at Modern Hipster Antiques out of Ingersoll (online or by appointment) and I believe London ON that often features finds from the show, along with lots of other great stuff. He posts items for auction at a facebook group and I enjoy seeing what he’s got going, and occasionally bidding.

This little set caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. The signature etched in the bottom of each piece is EIJA CANADA and for some reason, it captured me. There are three separate pieces: a mother and babe, two children fishing (with string and spear), and two children sitting with a dog.


I did a little research and found out that the artist was Eija Seras, a Finnish-Canadian modernist artist.

“Seras produced a range of Inuit figurines, hand sculpted from terra cotta clay, in the late 1960s through the 1970s based on her four years living at the U.S. Air Force base in Goose Bay, Labrador in the mid 1960s….An Eija Seras chess set was exhibited during an official Canada Week exhibition in Tokyo, Japan, in 1969, and the artist was awarded the Canadian Design of Merit citation in 1974 by the National Design Council of Canada for her native figures.” (Source)

From an expired listing on Etsy, I read “This miniature Inuit (formerly known as Eskimo) family set  [not the same as mine] was handmade in the 1970s. They were created in Windsor, Ontario, by Canadian artist Eija Seras. Each figure was molded in clay, hand finished, fired, painted, glazed and signed by the artist. Seras’ Inuit clay figurines were featured in galleries both in Canada and internationally. Today, these charming and unique pieces of Canadiana are increasingly hard to find and collectible.”

As I googled her name, I also came across her immigration record:

Incoming Passenger list for the Carinthia Cunard), sailing 23 Sept 1959. Liverpool to Montreal
Incoming Passenger list for the Carinthia (Cunard line), sailing 23 Sept 1959. Liverpool to Montreal (ancestry.com)

 It shows Ms Sera as a single female, born in 1927 (so she was 32 at time of sailing), occupation as artist, and as being in transit from Finland. The only other record for her is on the 1974 Voter’s List in Toronto, living at 266 Manor Road East, with occupation “Sculptoress”.

There are a few of these floating around on auction sites. They’re also by Seras.

seras chess set
Eija Seras Chess Set. Source: http://www.ebay.ca/itm/131698733357?item=131698733357

Many of the sites listing her work include her with Inuit artists, but this was clearly not the case. I’d be interested to know anything more about her and her life.

If you’re interested, I paid $35 plus another $10 for shipping. And I may be starting to collect more of these lovely little items as I find them.