by Jincy IypeSep 14, 2020
The handmade and technological, the traditional and contemporary, the rhythmic and colourful merge into a fruitful congregation of design in this chapter of Made In:, a STIR original series that looks inward to celebrate native design from all over the world. Product designers from Turkey, whose works submit themselves to contemporary narratives wrapped in the past and future, speak to us about their maxims, what drives their creative process and how the Middle Eastern country has shaped their design sensibilities.
Born in Turkey’s capital Ankara, Mustafa Arhan Kayar curates the selection this time, guided by his humble beginnings as an independent urban artist and a degree in architecture that paved his career as a designer, entrepreneur and businessman. Kayar is the Co-Founder of Dream Design Factory, Founder and Director of Istanbul Design Week, has designed for several local and international events across cities such as Istanbul, Paris, Tokyo, New York, Milan, and many more, and is also a member of the World Design Organization. Additionally, he also served as the project leader for Expo Beijing Turkish Pavilion (2019) and Expo Astana Turkish Pavilion (2017), along with being the architect and Creative Director of Expo Dubai 2020 Belarus Pavilion, the construction for which is currently underway.
“Turkey lies between Asia and Europe, its mainland flanked by Greece and Bulgaria on its northwest, its west by the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea tracing its north. Iran sits at its southeast while Syria and the Mediterranean Sea caresses the south. Almost 36 civilisations, from the Roman to Ottoman empires have lived here. Turkey’s history and its present is very much reflected in its design industry, its culture, its food and its living fabric - all fueled from this rich heritage and geographical placement,” observes Kayar.
I believe that we should and we can redesign all of our sectors – from politics to design to trade and entertainment, in a way that it focuses and celebrates the local and ecological, and produce with a global awareness. – Arhan Kayar, Co-Founder, Dream Design Factory
Kayar goes onto explain that the designers he handpicked to feature in Made in Turkey are similar yet wonderfully unique in their way of handling materials, of respectfully contemporising their local Turkish culture and nurturing global design sensibilities.
In no order of preference, we present to you designers and their illustrative works that demonstrate the diversity of Turkey’s product design industry – works that are a ray of hope in reviving a post-pandemic economy.
Describing himself as an interdisciplinary designer with a fascination for the future, Nakisci constantly cultivates his ability to play with ideas, forms, emotions, materials and technologies in innovative ways. Based out of Istanbul (Studio/Nakisci) and London (Futureisblank), Nakisci's award-winning work has been written about by publications including Wallpaper* and Dwell, covering his wide range of product design and installation projects that explore conversations between humans, spaces and objects.
“A designer’s role is much beyond just designing things. We are capable of creating products and experiences that continue to grow and adapt to the user. I want to reach a stage with my designs where radicalism and versatility are the norm.”
“I was born and raised in Istanbul as the youngest son of a carpenter and a visionary father; my surname comes from our fourth generation of wood workers. Nakisci (nakkas) means ‘embroiderer’ and ‘muralist’ in Turkish, and also means paying attention to detail,” shares Nakisci. He spends hours in his studios, tinkering with designs and working with his hands, and tying that process in with technological prowess, manifesting in his coherent, modernistic creations.
Amusingly, most of Nakisci’s objects reach completion when their owners contribute to it – he leaves them ever so slightly open ended that the user gives the product its final touch. This is observed in his lead-free crystal Mist Collection for Nude Glass – “The glass blurs the form, lending it an air of mystery. I wanted to create something awfully simple, not over designed, something that could be open to interpretation and fit into different living situations. You can call them vases, but to me they offer more possibilities,” he says. The Cube & Dot collection for KALE is a series of bespoke, rhombic and circular wall tiles and cabinetry that are rendered in plain shades and decorated with metallic, colourful decals. Residing at the intersection of art installation and product design, Gateway is a kaleidoscopic experience module made with mirrors, and can be assembled in various sizes and shapes. Futureisblank’s Relax Tableware is a magical set of bone china dishes, plates, bowls and cups, their stacked form following a casual abandon, which lends them their flowy, fresh and organic personality.
An independent designer based in Istanbul, Kara’s zany works focus on experimenting with potential across different design fields. Her education in industrial design blossomed into her offbeat projects that have been exhibited and published worldwide since the start of the millennium. Kara was nominated as the ‘Young Designer of the Year’ by Elle Décor/Turkey (2010), has received the ‘Good Design’ award from Design Turkey (2012), and was selected for 'Talents a la Carte' at Maison Objet/Paris (2014). She also splits her time in forming discourse and writing about design.
Most of Kara’s oeuvre captures the practicality and simple functionality of things, their strengths and weaknesses, whether it be a design concept or an actual product. “In Istanbul we are lucky because of atelier production processes: local masters and carpenters open their doors to develop our designs and inject in them their own experiences and aesthetic sense,” she says.
“It is important for creators of any kind to foster fresh perspectives regularly and to keep questioning. I flit between mediums, ideas and materials, which may or may not result in an object - I might end up with a poem!”
Her ‘B-Sides’ project is an ongoing conceptual series of everyday objects transformed and seen through an explorative lens, in an attempt to question their innate nature and how we have grown to interact with them. From the Cheese Plate that invokes empathy to Blockcrack, a concrete chunk that becomes a flower pot, these modified objects are “more than an exercise in design, a proposal for how we might look differently at the mundane around us,” she continues.
Exhibited widely, Kara’s wacky Digit Candle holder, one of the seven selected pieces of the Fabtab Fabrica collection for Paola C., is a ceramic piece for people to celebrate birthdays without cake. (Yes, you read that right). “I got slightly obsessed with how as we age, our birthday candles keep getting lesser and simplified in quantity, or are not accurate at all. You will see that this design can hold candles in the shape of exact numbers - so as long as you have 40 candles you can celebrate any number up to 99,” Kara shares. Finished in ash grey and strips of hot pink, her Loom Rugs are a low-resolution, pixelated depiction of carpets and their patterns. Produced entirely in Turkey, the rug’s grid–hole system transforms them into play puzzles, an intended DIY where the user gets to complete and thread the piece as they like, delaying boredom and adding a pop of activity in their lives.
“I come from a family that has lived in Crete and Thessaloniki for more than 200 years. I grew up seeing and listening to enchanting stories about these lands and its ways, its people, their traditional garb and jewellery. I keep translating those memories and aesthetics into my designs, and I am so grateful that I get to do it,” shares Ozman, Founder of Phare (1998) and Pharestudio (2005) that dabbles in lighting and other disciplines of product design. “I have always been captivated and inspired by antique, used objects from an older period (more precisely the 50s and the 60s), and also by items that have an authentic, spirited and rare character,” she adds.
“When you create something that has a genuine, traditional identity, you succeed in creating something timeless, and respect the past in the process. Design has the power to do that - to root the past, the present and the future in its timeline.”
One of her oldest designs, Galata, was designed for Istanbul Design Week (2005) and has since been in production, and is easily one of her most stand out, romantic pieces. Tendrils of Jellyfish tentacles created out of frilly, wedding gown veils of chiffon ribbon, cascade down the lighting product’s illuminated, bulbous head. “We used cold white bulbs in the top part and a very warm halogen light at the bottom to create a tiered light,” Ozman informs. Made with glass tube covers encased within brass skeletons, Cirque series comprises a wall and suspension lamp inspired by the 50s and produced with local Turkish craftsmen. The Sini series is a collection of petite side tables with copper trays fixed on top of them. “We use a lot of copper products here and that prompted me to design this simple yet effective collection – we used traditional copper trays and modified them into modern side tables. We have also employed the same material to produce other pieces such as the sumptuous Harem chandelier,” adds Ozman.
Seyhan Özdemir and Sefer Çağlar
Autoban is an internationally renowned studio that works across architecture and interiors, along with product, lighting and experiential objects, layering tactile materials and textures in their clean designs. Founders Özdemir and Çağlar are known for their multi-layered design approach grounded in storytelling, resulting in space centric experiences. Autoban’s portfolio comprises award-winning work in hospitality, transportation, commercial, retail, office and public realm environments. Their product design collections have been showcased at major design exhibitions and art events worldwide, including London Design Festival, Salone del Mobile and the London Design Biennale.
“We can strive to reach a compromise where we are able to uphold our economies and sustain a greener, happier planet at the same time – the process of turning local, a turn inward accomplishes that, now and in the long run.”
The Nest Chair is one of Autoban’s most recognised and loved designs, summarising the studio’s work philosophy and minimal, beige aesthetic sense in one product. “We frequently create spaces within spaces, designing an interior shell that provides a warm, personal and unique experience for the user, and so does this chair. Tall, cage-like wooden slats create an architectural space that spells comfort in its distinct look,” shares Çağlar. Autoban also contributed to the London Design Biennale (2016) with The Wish Machine - a futuristic interpretation of the traditional ‘Wish-Tree’ concept. Visitors were allowed to feed a wish into the interactive machine’s transparent pneumatic tubes that were then carried off to some unknown destination, “in search of an unseen utopia”.
Autoban has also designed the free-flowing international terminal for Heydar Aliyev Airport in Baku. “We used wooden cocoons to break up the vast spaces, and used tactile materials like wood, stone and textiles paired with warm lighting to create a friendlier, more manageable and enjoyable space. What’s more, every furniture piece found within the terminal is a bespoke Autoban piece,” informs Özdemir. One of them is the soft edged Sini Stool that is a contemporary version of a traditional low Turkish table, made with oak and walnut wood. Another is the cosy, low slung Sledge Lounge Chair, whose liberal proportions are inspired by the designers’ childhood memories of playing outdoors on snowy winter days, only to rush indoors to sink into their favourite, comfy armchairs in front of a fireplace.
Founder of Santimetre Studio (Turkish for centimetre), an artisanal design brand for handmade porcelain, Madra is a designer and a ceramist, travelling between her studios in Ayvalik and New York City. “Initially a furniture and interior designer, she became more and more immersed in ceramics and terracotta over the years, and porcelain became her preferred medium,” reveals her official website.
“I believe art and design is a state of awareness; design is healing.”
Santimetre’s Assos Deep Plate rendered in avocado green and caramel beige takes its name from the stones that Madra collected from her walks on the stony seashore around Assos, and can be used both as a dinner plate and a service plate. Santimetre Studio’s porcelain tableware collection is an eclectic mix of iconic items, familiar forms that present a playful yet intimate quality. “What unites them and transforms them is the fact that they are all cast in porcelain and glazed with a wide spectrum of colours. Each piece tells a story of its own, and becomes part of the user’s daily lives,” shares Madra. These include playfully stripped and patterned trays and solid coloured, art deco inspired, polygonal-sided Garbo Coffee set series that Madra describes as “handle-less, free-spirited, orderly and mysterious”.
Curated by Amit Gupta and Pramiti Madhavji, STIR X Script presents Made In: an original series that features curated selections of product designers across countries, showcasing modern, sustainable, homegrown design.
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