Now happily living and working in Helsinki, designer Erin Turkoglu grew up moving between America and Turkey, then spent some time in Amsterdam, before settling in Finland. She has now been in Finland for 6 years and, as she says: ‘At this point I’ve become a kind of local.’ She spent her first 4 years in Helsinki studying at Aalto University, on what was then a Masters in Furniture Design. Erin had taken her BA in New York and found it quite directional. Whilst she appreciated the structure, then, afterwards she was looking for something different, something a bit ‘more wild’.
Erin is a multi-faceted designer. The freedom to work across media is something she was consciously looking for, and found, at Aalto: ‘From furniture design I started doing more applied arts related work and also mixing the two. I was working with different materials like wood, metal, glass, ceramics and learning how to make things by hand and, most importantly, designing by doing.’ For Erin the interesting discussions weren’t so much about the problem-solving aspects of design, as about aesthetics and how things were made: ‘You could talk about the aesthetics in any way you wanted, you could get very poetic and it was acceptable. It was a different approach.’
She revelled in the freedom to go into any workshop and try something out. To design something crazy, and then tone it down afterwards, if necessary: ‘That’s what I loved the most, trying out a craft for the first time. You get so many ideas when you’ve never done something before, you come up with the best ideas at that point.’
‘Being a foreigner puts you in a certain state of mind. It’s comparable to taking on a new craft. You take on a new place and culture and see things the locals might not even notice.’
Erin Turkoglu, 2019
SILENT TEAPOT, PADDLE
MIRROR, CERAMIC VOID
Erin admits she felt a little like an outsider when she first arrived in Helsinki. The language seemed crazy and there was a lot of bureaucracy to deal with, as she isn’t an EU citizen. But the Finnish also made things easy, their user-friendly systems seemed designed around people. The pace of life in Helsinki gave her the space to focus on making, because the city is so calm, especially compared to New York and Istanbul.
When I asked Erin what Helsinki has given her, and she it, she mentions the lively community of like-minded designers who bounce off each other: ‘The designer community here gives me a lot. Of course, we give each other a lot. So maybe that’s my contribution. Being a foreigner puts you in a certain state of mind. It’s comparable to taking on a new craft. You take on a new place and culture and see things the locals might not even notice. Finland is a designer’s community, one that shapes all of us. I would definitely say the way I think got shaped by Finland.’
Erin is just about to travel to Japan for a 6 week residency. She will be working on ceramics with glazes that will respond to human touch. It will be yet another experiment in making and thinking and trying out new places, meeting new people and designing from the inside out, whilst living from the outside in.