Tero Kuitunen is a designer who is trying to keep the scene of Scandinavian design alive and contemporary with his creations and projects. Tero strongly believes in the power of colours that are also his inspiration. Currently, he is working on an interesting new exhibition called “Between us”.
Hello Tero, tell us something about yourself. How did you discover that design was your path?
For as long as I can remember I have been doing things with my hands. As a child, I loved playing with Legos and playing dough, so I guess I have always been designing new objects and forms. I never thought about becoming a designer, it was more like a guided intuition. I attended an art high school and then I enrolled in Aalto university. I try not to think too much about what I should be doing and more about what makes me happy and excited. Of course being a freelancer always brings the stress of uncertainty, but I also try to find the positive side in this job. You never know what unexpected opportunity is waiting for you around the corner.
“We have seen more risk-taking, more colours, art and a new type of craftsmanship”
In your opinion, what makes Scandinavian design unique all over the world?
I think that closeness by nature and the changing of the seasons have a lot of influence on Scandinavian design. We also have a long tradition in modernist functionality. Trailblazing architects like Alvar Aalto still have a strong influence on the way people design their environment. As the winter months are very cold and dark, people spend a lot of the time inside their homes. I think this is one of the reasons why we like to make our homes nice and cosy. I think there has been a slow change in design in recent years. We have seen more risk-taking, more colours, art and a new type of craftsmanship. Nature is always present in our daily lives. Most of our country is made up of forests and lakes and, even from the centre of Helsinki, it is possible to reach the forest in just 20 minutes by public transport. Our winters are very dark while, on the other hand, our summers are full of light almost 24 hours a day, so nature affects our lives a lot, even if we don’t think about it intentionally.
Do you try to include your Finnish origins into your works?
I feel that Finnish people are very proud of their design heritage and almost everyone has a connection with Alvar Aalto furniture or Iittala ceramics and glassware. Good design is something very common and ordinary for us. For me, as a designer, this strong heritage is sometimes a bit of a burden. Since Aalto or Marimekko are the most known designers for outsiders, it can be difficult to present new ideas and concepts about what is actually happening in the design scene in Finland. For me, it’s very important to present something new and to keep the design scene alive and contemporary.
“You never know what unexpected opportunity is waiting for you around the corner”
Over the years, Scandinavian design has evolved, for example, by introducing more colour, is that right?
I feel that the landscape of design has changed a lot in the last ten years. Many factories have moved away from Scandinavia, so designers don’t have the same work opportunities as before. Moreover, people are much more aware of ecological and ethical values. In a certain way, designers are in a conflict where they are given the task of creating more objects in a world where there are already too many ideas. What results from this situation is that designers and artists create their own brands so that they can produce in smaller quantities and can take the risk themselves. I also think it is very interesting how the worlds of art and design have become closer to each other: designers can switch between these two fields much more easily. I could even argue that there is a kind of renaissance going on in the design scene: people are much more fearless and more creative than before.
In addition, due to social media, ideas and styles travel very fast around the world. For these reasons, it is quite hard to find the typical identity of our design at the moment.
You use a lot of colours in your creations, how do you choose them? I mean, how do you select the different shades?
Colours are one of my biggest inspirations. I love to play with a lot of colours in my works. I feel that by changing colours you can really change the whole design. Also, I can be inspired by different moods and interesting spaces. I genuinely just trust my gut feeling when choosing colours. I follow fashion and pop culture and I also get a lot of inspiration from there.
“For me, it’s very important to present something new and to keep the design scene alive and contemporary”
What would you like to convey to people through your works?
I love creating objects that feel good in your hand. My aim is to create designs with personality and allow people to feel a connection with them. I want to awaken feelings through playfulness and a sense of fun. I am also very fascinated by the blurred line between art and design.
Are you working on something new at the moment?
I’m working on a very interesting art project at the moment. Together with the artist Karoliina Hellberg and the sculptor Raimo Saarinen we are organising a big exhibition at Amos Rex art museum in Helsinki. The exhibition Between us will open in May and will continue until September.
“Central to the work of the three artists is the examination of the relationship between art and the built environment. Inspired by the different temporal layers and mood shifts in the museum building, the artists have created works that take up the space, grow from it and around it. The exhibition flows among different levels from the underground halls to Bio Rex’s 1930s functionalist visions. The title of the exhibition refers to the encounter of both the artist and the viewer with the artwork”.
“I want to awaken feelings through playfulness and a sense of fun”
What is one of the greatest satisfactions you have reached so far?
I think that one big satisfaction was the exhibition Wild at Heart that I curated and created. Through Wild at Heart I wanted to break the stereotypes and to show how versatile the design scene is in Finland. In the Finnish design field there is a lot more than just Alvar Aalto, minimalism and nature-driven ideas. I wanted to show the humour, the colours and the bold ideas that can be found in contemporary Finnish design and art. My main aim was to show some sides that differ from what we usually think when talking about Finnish design. For me, it was also important to curate creators with different backgrounds and ages and to maintain the balance between the number of men and women creators. There are 10 designers or design companies involved and their age range goes from 27 to 87 years old. The exhibition toured in five countries and was seen by about 40,000 people.
In your opinion, how daring are you in the design field?
It’s hard to say how daring I am but I try to bring something new to the Finnish and the Scandinavian design field. I think you have to take risks and trust your vision. If I’m not 100 % sure what the outcome of a new project will be and I’m a little nervous, then I know it’s going to be exciting.
Interview & Article by
Studio collection shot by Aino Huhtamäki