Lisa Johansson-Pape graduated as a furniture designer, or as she preferred to say, “as a furniture draughtsman”, from the Central School of Arts and Crafts in 1927. Immediately after graduating, she designed furniture at the Kylmäkoski furniture factory. From 1933 to 1937 she designed models and patterns for the Friends of Finnish Handicraft, while also working on a freelance basis mainly on commission. In 1937, she was employed by the Stockmann department-store company’s design office to create furniture and carpets. Johansson-Pape’s furniture designs were always simplified and reduced, and highly functional.
Her long career in the design of light fixtures and fittings began in 1942, when she was invited to work for the Orno lamp and light-fixture factory. She was one of the charter members of the Finnish Association for Lighting Technology and one of her principles in design for this sector was to make the form of a lamp or light fixture serve technological function. She worked in metal and acrylic, which was a new material at the time, in addition to designing anonymous light fixtures of glass for kitchens and bathrooms among other uses. Lisa Johansson-Pape designed the lighting of a number of hospitals (the Lastenlinna Children’s Hospital in Helsinki, 1948; the Heinola Rheumatism Sanatorium, 1950), educational institutions (the Swedish-speaking School of Economics in Helsinki, 1952) and churches (Eckerö Church, early 1950s). She was also responsible for the light fixtures of several ferries and ships (Ilmatar, Aallotar, Finnpartner, Finnhansa, the icebreaker Karhu). Johansson-Pape wrote and lectured on the subject lighting, with speaking engagements as far as Japan. She was an instructor for many years at the Institute of Industrial Arts in Helsinki. In 1960, she held a solo exhibition entitled “Light – glass – metal” at the Stockmann exhibition rooms in Helsinki and a joint exhibition with Dora Jung at the Röhs Museum in Gothenburg in 1966.
Lisa Johansson-Pape was also an exhibition architect, having become familiar with this area while assisting her teacher Arttu Brummer in mounting the annual exhibitions of applied art and design at the Kunsthalle Helsinki. She organized countless exhibitions of rya textiles and light fixtures during her professional career. A significant event was a large exhibition of woven rya textiles, first shown to the public in Helsinki in 1956, after which it was taken on tour by the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design to the Nordic countries and other venues in Europe until 1970s. Johansson-Pape also designed the commemorative exhibitions of the Friends of Finnish Handicraft. In 1983, she designed and realized a memorial exhibition in honour of her friend Dora Jung at the Museum of Applied Arts (present-day Design Museum) in Helsinki. This showing also went on tour.
Lisa Johansson-Pape’s works represented Finland in many international exhibitions since the 1930s. At the New York World’s Fair of 1939, she carried out part of the interior design of the Finland department and at the Milan Triennial of 1951 lamps and light fixtures designed by her were awarded a silver medal. They received a gold medal at the 1954 triennial.
Alongside her other duties, Johansson-Pape was the artistic director of the Friends of Finnish Handicraft from 1951 until 1985. After her retirement, she organized the large archives of pattern and model designs of the Friends of Finnish Handicraft.