Exploring New Avenues in Sculptural Design. Studio Visit with Contemporary Designer, Tuomas Markunpoika.
By Ewan Waddell

Exploring New Avenues in Sculptural Design. Studio Visit with Contemporary Designer, Tuomas Markunpoika.

A couple of weeks ago we swung by the Pankow-based studio of Contemporary Designer Tuomas Markunpoika. Born in Finland, educated in the Netherlands and now living in Berlin, we were captivated when we first laid eyes on Tuomas’ design pieces and so were delighted when he welcomed us into his studio for a chat about his work.

First, I wondered what led Tuomas down the path of Contemporary Design.

“I guess it’s a bit of a natural tendency and then some kind of natural ability but I was always just interested in forms and objects and these kinds of material things.”

Tuomas’ work encompasses a plethora of aesthetics and processes that drift between art and design. I was curious then, how he himself would describe the work.

“I don’t physically feel that I belong in art or design in a way. If people see my work, usually it’s much more in the design context, because everything I do, even though it’s sculptural, is still somehow functional.”

How did you arrive at this sculptural approach? I ask.

“When I found out what furniture and industrial design were really like, is when I reverted away from them and started doing a bit more sculptural, conceptual design. So I figured, okay, I'll just finish studying, learn what I can, and then take a new direction.”

I was interested to know how his process has developed over time.

“I do things differently than I did in the beginning. My spectrum has broadened so that I include more materials and different techniques in my work. I still work independently though and don’t use assistants. I haven’t changed that.”

For creating furniture pieces which are often very large and technical, it was surprising to learn that Tuomas chooses to work alone. I was curious as to the origin of this preference. 

“What I like about working on my own is that I have the time to dedicate myself to something very specific for a month or so and just try to be better at that technique or even better at developing my own technique or process with a material… It’s always a learning curve but I enjoy that part. Discovering something. It might be fifty-per-cent a waste of time, and fruitless, in an economic sense, but I just like this mix and match way of doing things.”

Tuomas told me that since the beginning his “spectrum has broadened”. How? I asked.

“I have a lot of different projects where I use completely different materials and different aesthetics. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing though to not have a ‘style’ because then it’s not necessarily recognisable as my work always... It can be very bulky, stone-looking stuff, or something very filigrain and nice but I think it’s just purely on inspiration.”

We talked more about creating work that varies in style.

“I can see this working for me as a disadvantage because most of my work goes through a gallery in London and their client base are maybe keen on a specific style. But I guess I just don’t want to work in that way branding myself. I put much more emphasis and importance on finding it pleasant to work.”

Tuomas’ design pieces of course exist in the design context, but they occupy a space that transcends pure functionality. I wondered what the intentions were with occupying this space.

“My main projects all have a kind of strong narrative a story. But they’re all completely different stories, so they’ve got completely different concepts and ideologies and philosophies behind them.”

Tuomas then went on to tell me about the most meaningful story to him, Engineering Temporality

“It was a project dealing with this kind of fragility and temporality. And memories. Those were my key narratives, and then during that process, when I was working, my Grandmother was suffering from Alzheimers, so I was trying to sort of use my personal grief for it to be inspired in the work. I think that’s the most personal project that has the most value to me. It was a very sad event in life. I was somehow trying to put that into the work and communicate this last chapter. Materialize this disintegration of a person’s memories and make it into a sculpture or a piece of design.”

Are there any recurring sources of inspiration?

“I like contemporary sculpture. Those shapes are very interesting. But also, I like industrial stuff. Construction sites, staircases, scaffolding… I might see a shape which is from a different context that can be used in whatever context I want to put it into. So like, I can scale down industrial machines and then take something from there. Or, it could just be natural shapes. Anything for me, in terms of shape, can be interesting.”

“I don’t have just one specific thing that interests me at any given moment. Maybe that’s something I will have to develop like to be more consistent but I’ve not yet found a reason to do that.”

What do you want the future to bring?

“I just wish to continue what I’m doing. I don’t really have an aspiration to change anything. If there is more work, great, and if I can explore different avenues in my work, that’s also fun.”


Thank you to Tuomas. You can find his links below.

Website -- Instagram -- Gallery -- Dezeen.

Words by Ewan Waddell.


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