As autumn’s chill and the ever shorter days slowly turn the leaves to burnished golds, russets and reds, we visited the Rigby workshop to chat talented Finnish engraver Saija Koskialho and learn more about her career and passions.
Tell us a little bit about yourself – where did you grow up, what did you study at school and university and what set you on the path to your career today?
I grew up in Finland, in a small town on the west coast. I was always interested in art, craftsmanship and working with my hands, and harboured ambitions to be a goldsmith when I was younger. When I finished school at 18 years of age, I ended up studying Fine Arts in the University of Applied Sciences in Eastern Finland. I focused on metalwork and stone cutting as my major and I loved it.
After I graduated, I travelled to Florence in Italy to study traditional goldsmithing and jewellery making for three years. During those three years, I took an introductory course in hand engraving which I really enjoyed, and this experience made me want to study this specialist area in more detail. I researched how to go about this and discovered a school in Finland which offered a three-year programme in hand engraving, so I enrolled there. During the three years I learned to engrave various font and text styles, monogrammes and ornamentation on precious metals – mostly jewellery or silverware.
How did you go from there to working for Rigby and hand engraving their guns?
I was curious about gun engraving and wanted to have a go at it, so I enrolled in the famous gunmaking school of Liege, Belgium and I absolutely fell in love with it. Engraving steel is very different from precious metals and it gives you much more freedom; obviously gun engravers have way bigger surface to work than jewellery engravers, and engraving steel allows you to use different techniques such as gold inlay and carving.
After being at the school in Liege for around one and a half years, I was contacted by Rigby and asked if I wanted to work for them as an engraver, which I was thrilled about. I was impressed by the innovative and passionate young team here and obviously the interesting engraving projects, so I joined the company in July 2018 and have never looked back.
What are you working on at the moment in the workshop?
I’m being kept busy working on four rifles; .275, .350 and .416 take down rifles and a Rising Bite double rifle. They are all to be fully carved and inlaid with yellow, white and red gold for middle eastern-style ornamentation. It’s totally absorbing, and they will look extraordinary.
What is your favourite part of working as an engraver at Rigby, and what do you find most challenging?
My favourite element would definitely be the interesting and fun projects we have. As an engraver, every one of my projects is different and that means I get to deploy all my technical skills and creative capacity every time. I’m lucky to be able to challenge myself in an environment where expression and creativity is actively encouraged. The biggest challenge, however, is finding enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do! We have a lot of work which is of course brilliant, but I would love a little more time…
Do you hunt and have you got any hunting trips booked this year?
No, I had never actually fired a gun before I started working at Rigby despite my fascination with learning how to engrave them! However, I would be interested to do some clay and target shooting to learn the ropes first and then start to think about hunting, but I haven’t had time to really practise yet. Watch this space!
What do you like to spend your spare time doing? Have you any travel booked for this autumn and winter?
I’m just getting back into running after a few years break, and I also enjoy yoga. I like to read old English and Russian classic literature too. I’ve made the most of living in London and have seen lots of musicals and theatre plays here which has been great. I love to travel but my only planned trip for the rest of the year is to go back to my native Finland for Christmas, which will no doubt roll around very quickly. I shall have to start planning 2023 travel – when I get a little spare time!