Started in 2009 with a close friend, Tulya Madra started her ceramic business in a small town on the Aegean Coast in Turkey, back and forth over the years, she now resides in New York and has expanded her creative and ceramic world to Soho, New York where the cutest store on Thompson Street houses her designs and a small studio at the rear of the store where new ideas are born.
Santimetre means Centimeter in Turkish, A centimeter is approximately the width of the fingernail of an average adult person, Internationally the centimeter remains a practical unit of length for many everyday measurements, Like the centimeter, Tulya likes to keep the business small and precise but strongly independent and focused.
Many of Tulya’s designs are based on her personal experiences and stories growing up in Turkey, In her shared family home where collected ceramics from many different sides of the family migrated and were housed, she remembers as a child fondly the silhouette’s of these much used collated pieces from all different era’s and then through her process of design she illuminates them in her adult life into new shapes and forms. Taking this detour through the past and choosing reminiscent forms as the sources for inspiration means Tulya embraces the culture deeply rooted in geography and social landscapes. Her experience in both interior and furniture design are also big influences and a layer seen obviously in her work. Color plays a big part and you can see from the Studio's work that they are color technicians, amazing glazes so rich and deep with life echoing the Aegean surroundings.
Tulya and her team are focused on making thoughtful, enduring and graceful pieces that enhance the quality of the lives that use them. They design, model, mould, cast, fettle, glaze and kiln their own collections. Apart from their porcelain practices, They also produce other goods made with materials Tulya love’s like textiles, leather, cement, iron and wood.
Here we ask Tulya a few questions:
Q: Where exactly did you grow up?
A: I grew up partially in Istanbul and this Aegean coastal town "Ayvalik" which is my father’s hometown.
Q: What was your education and background leading up to your current career?
A: I went to an American high school in Istanbul. I studied philosophy at Bogazici university for two years. then I switched to industrial design at the fine arts academy in Istanbul. Later on when I moved to New York in 1996 I continued studying philosophy at New School. I never practiced as an Industrial Designer but after school I chose to become a furniture designer. I also worked for interior design projects and always custom designed the furniture I used for these projects.
Q: What were you major influences as a child growing up in Turkey and how did this influence your design practice and approach?
A: My parents were always very interested in art and their circle of friends were a lot of Turkish and international artists. My father was into abstract photography and my mother eventually became a curator so I grew up in a very lucky environment where I was exposed to a lot of creativity. My father was an avid "Domus" reader. I still have this incredible Domus Magazine collection dating back to early sixties. As a child I used to spend hours looking at the pictures of these magazines and dream about trying to understand what is going on in the spaced depicted.
Q: Where is the workshop and store located in Turkey?
A: After spending an eight year period in New York I moved back to Turkey in 2003. I could not re-adjust to Istanbul and decided to move to my favorite childhood town Ayvalik. There I established an architectural and design office with an architect friend Firat Aykac. With Firat I started experimenting with clay and eventually set up a small casting studio. We named it Santimetre which means centimeter in Turkish. That small workshop eventually grew into what it is now. it is located in the town center and annexed to it is its store. Firat is no longer an active part of the team but still keeps an eye on us. We trained ourselves and today the main production is the work of myself and 4/5 other members.
Q: Who are your favorite designers and influencers?
A: I appreciate so many good designers and artists it’s hard to name a few. But I do have personal super favorites of course. Tony Smith, Jannis Kounellis, George Hadjimichalis and William Kentridge are my artistic heroes. Konstantin Gricic is the ultimate designer for me, I also love Patricia Urquiola's sensibility and historically I am a big fan of Carlo Scarpa.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
A: I like stories, I like wandering with connotations, I like poetry and nature, I don't see myself having a definitive style, I have too many conflicting interests for example I admire minimalism but I can never be a minimalist myself. Maybe I would say that my style is the way I move fluidly around my personal interests.
Q: Did you take a different approach to your business when expanding to the USA?
A: Well my new adventure in New York is shaping my project in new ways of course, but I didn't arrive with a big new plan, I just brought what I have been doing in the past here to New York. Being in New York is a great chance for more visibility, but as the name suggests I will try to keep my studio at its independent, experimental and on a low batch / highly analogue scale.
Check out the store at 105 Thompson Street, New York, NY, 10012, Ph: 646 508 8756 and the website at Santimetre Studio
Tulya also has an amazing Instagram feed to follow.