MADE BY is the Institute’s new interviews of series that allows artists, designers, thinkers and doers to unfold their creative process in their own words.
First up is 30-year-old Finnish designer Tuomas Markunpoika Tolvanen, who lives and runs his own practice Studio Markunpoika in Amsterdam. He has studied Furniture Design in Lahti University of Design and earned his MA in Contextual Design from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2012. Tolvanen’s thesis for Eindhoven, Engineering Temporality, which consists of chairs and a self unit, aims to connect design to the human emotional sphere. It is nominated as the Furniture of the Year 2013 in London Design Museum’s Designs of the Year Competition.
The idea for Engineering Temporality spawned out from my grandmothers declining health – I felt that Alzheimer’s disease was turning her into a mere shell of a human being. This evoked lots of thoughts about death, temporality and memories in me. I wanted to translate this human fragility into a design object.
My goal is to introduce humanistic, more profound values into the field of design. I want to create objects that reflect how we are as human beings. Someone might find this insulting but I think that often design is rather soulless and insignificant.
I became a designer because I am interested in both the physical world and the metaphysical world always attached to it. Objects are never merely material but always carry many associations, memories and sentimental value with them.
Functionality in objects is not that relevant in my work. Our dearest objects are usually important to us due to their practicality but because of the memories and values attached to them. To me the idea that design should always be practical compares to the notion of landscape painting being the only real art form.
My chosen material for Engineering Temporality was tubular steel for it creates the perfect contrast to a human being. I wanted to take a common mass product in furniture industry and turn it into something fragile and unique. I manipulated the tubular steel by cutting it into small rings and connected the rings back together to form a semi-covering layer over a wooden piece of furniture. Then I burned down the original, wooden object. What was left is sort of the skeleton of an object, materialized memory of something that used to exist.
My working process is far from a controlled, straightforwardly proceeding project. Chaos is a more accurate word to describe it, really. When I started with Engineering Temporality, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was hopping from one thing to another, read lots of books, tried different things and failed several times. It was quite hard, at times depressing too. The only things that remained clear in my mind throughout the process were the notions of death and fading memory that I wanted to address.
The work took a long time and was painstaking. I finished the first chair in early 2012 and showed it to my tutors. They liked it a lot but I wasn’t happy with it yet. Even now, I am not quite sure if there was a moment of “epiphany” at any point of the process for me. However, with others’ encouragement I slowly started to believe that I might have created something quite good.
You have to be able to let go of your own work, just like you eventually have to let go of your own children that you’ve raised. You could keep perfecting your work until the end of the world but at some point you simple have make the decision: this is it. I never showed the finished furniture to my grandmother though – I think looking at that could have been distressing for her.
Next I want to do something completely different. I am thankful for all the attention that Engineering Temporality has attracted but at the same time I feel that I have been captured by this object. I have so many ideas in my head but right now I can only find time for making new chairs, even if I work 12 hours a day on a regular basis.
Studio Markunpoika is announcing a press release for Salone del Mobile 2013 in Milan, Italy. Included is also a new piece for 'Engineering Temporality' limited edition.
London Design Museum’s Designs of the Year Competition
MADE BY: TUOMAS MARKUNPOIKA TOLVANEN