Tove loved islands. In an interview in the 1940s, she revealed her dream of owning an island and being keeper of her own lighthouse. Tove was already well acquainted with the sea and the Pellinki archipelago from summers spent there with her family and their many daytrips. Islands also appear in her work as hives of adventure and the setting for rebirth and change – places where you can build your own world.
Tove’s first island love was Kummelskär, the largest of the small, uninhabited rocky islets in the region. However, the local residents would not agree to any building on the island, as it would disrupt the fishing of herring, cod, whitefish and salmon. When Tove realised that Kummelskär was an impossible dream, she began negotiations for the next island. Tove was able to rent the island and, by the summer of 1947, construction was underway on a summer villa called Vindrosens hus (Wind Rose House). But her family and friends soon found their way to the island, and Tove began to long for more freedom and solitude.
Exhausted by the milling crowds, Tove and Tooti pitched their tent on Klovharu for five happy days in the summer of 1963. A diary entry about the stormy weather of their last day encapsulates the charm of the island.
‘Level six storm, rain. Just managed to save the boat. The sea is a witch’s cauldron, thunder like cannon shots. Tent ripped. Exquisitely beautiful.’
Tove’s move away to another island was tough for Ham, who had spent every summer with Tove since her childhood. But the summer of 1963 was the last straw for Tove. It was nothing less than a scrum of visitors that left her no time to work. She had to look further afield, out towards the horizon and the open sea, where she found the little rocky islet of Klovharu in the Pellinki island community.
A brisk construction programme was launched on Klovharu in the autumn of 1964, but these dreams of a hermit’s life were soon shattered as well. The island, with its unusual building project, house and author, became a tourist attraction that continually pulled in the crowds.
‘Seventeen visitors came from E for coffee, drinks and juice, a chat and to ‘get a look at me’. Sod it! Ham and Tooti are doing woodwork. I’m rolling rocks. Really angry.’
With time, Tove was able to balance out periods of socialising with time spent working alone. Even Ham struck up a rapport with Klovharu and spent a great deal of time there with Tove and Tooti. During the summers, Tooti would work on her graphic art and watercolours, while Tove wrote and illustrated. They built driftwood structures that would be reclaimed by autumnal storms. Occasionally, the sea would wash up surprisingly exotic woods.
‘Once, a great amount of bamboo washed up on the shore. We gathered it, but didn’t know what to do with it. “Build kites,” Ham said. “We’ve got tons of Japanese rice paper.”’
– Extracts from Anteckningar från en ö (Notes From an Island, 1996).