Elena Soini '17 is Living Life "Sisu" Style

Elena Soini '17 is Living Life "Sisu" Style


When I was approaching the end of my Coast Guard career and thinking of how I wanted to spend my time post-military life, I took a deep dive into my past to sort out what really makes me tick, what makes me happy.  I clearly landed on building cool stuff.  I started building things with my grandfather when I was a little kid, and kept up a side-hustle in carpentry and woodworking whenever I had my tools where I was stationed.  When I was stationed in Boston, I would read WoodenBoat on the train and fantasize about getting into boatbuilding.  In my soul-searching process I re-discovered some research that I had done for a college paper (topic forgotten) and there was a link to IYRS.  The rest is history.  I would say that my romantic ideas about boatbuilding turned out not to be entirely factual, but there are so many cool aspects about boats that aren’t found in other sectors.  From lofting to launch, there were amazing processes that took place in the IYRS shop, which have been truly inspiring in thinking about what I want to produce in my own small shop now. 

Elena inside the hull of the Northeast Challenger she and her fellow students restored at IYRS. Challenger is a 21' 1/2' sloop designed by Ralph E. Winslow in 1946. 

After graduation I worked as a marine carpenter for Hunt Yachts for a couple of years to get a feel for production work, then went on to do some restoration work with East Passage Boatwrights while I was getting Finn Woodworking and Design up and running.  Like many other entrepreneurs I’m transitioning between one life and another and have continued to work to keep the lights on while designing and developing my products.  At Finn Woodworking and Design, I’m currently building my second commissioned wooden stand-up paddleboard which will be delivered this spring, and am in the development stage of a classically shaped Paipo, balance board, and adjustable box jump. 

Finn Woodworking & Design's wooden SUP

I am Finnish and I started Finn Woodworking and Design to join my woodworking skills and passion with my love of the outdoors, fitness, and community.  I want to introduce Sisu into every-day activities, develop community connections, and build lasting bonds through purposeful and beautiful creations.  Sisu, a Finnish word dating back to at least the 1500’s, has no direct English translation.  Although it can be roughly translated to “guts” or grit, the meaning is more of a mindset or way of life that embodies mental toughness or mental fortitude.  Katja Pantzar wrote an excellent book The Finnish Way in which she describes the word, the people, and traditions.  Finnish people have enjoyed a connection with nature and a lifestyle that embraces Sisu for centuries. To me, Sisu is about being in balance through all aspects of life.  I am proudly Finnish, but you don’t have to be to enjoy the benefits of the lifestyle.  

Coming up next: A Finnish sauna with a twist…