Interview on July 5, 2012
Hi Mika, how are you?
I’m fine, thank you.
In May you received the prestigious Swedish Bruno Mathsson Award. Congratulations!
Thank you very much. It was great to realize that my works have been followed abroad already for several years.
Visu chairs for Muuto, 2012
The award is intended for supporting and encouraging young designers from the Nordic countries. What are the biggest challenges young designers face at the moment?
You can design in many ways. Finding your own path can be difficult, but if you work hard you’ll always go forward.
Hideaway bin for Muuto, 2012
Can we still talk about Finnish design or Scandinavian design? You design a lot for international companies, so is the final result Scandinavian, reflecting the company or a design that is typical of Mika Tolvanen?
Maybe Scandinavian design is not so peculiar anymore, but I think that it still has its own character. In design, the most important roles are played by manufacturer, designer and user. The outcome is always the result of a cooperation.
What will you do with the prize money of the Bruno Mathsson Award?
I will take a bit longer summer vacation. First of all I will spend a week and a half in a summer cottage in Kuhmo. In August I will leave on a road trip through the USA.
Restore sorage basket for Muuto, 2009
The Visu chair family you designed for the Danish Muuto will soon be available from Finnish Design Shop. Tell us about Visu.
It all started in 2010 when Muuto asked me to design a basic chair. Before that I have designed for them the Restore storage basket, which has been a success. The cooperation has been excellent. New members will join the Visu family, like an easy chair and a bar stool. We always work on each single product until it’s ready. We are not in a rush for any exhibition or fair.
Jono storage system for Zanotta, 2010
Visu is available both with wooden legs and with metal legs. How did you end up with this solution?
Wooden legs and stackable metal legs were priorities. I’m working also on stacking straight wire legs and a chair on castors.
What are your favourite options among the materials and colours for the Visu?
Oak legs and pink upholstered seat. Also the yellow wooden seat with yellow metal legs is beautiful!
Vuoka lamp prototype, 2005
Another new design for Muuto is the Hideaway laundry basket or trash bin. Tell us more about it.
I started designing Hideaway at the same time as the Visu chair. I was simply asked to design a laundry basket/trash bin. At the beginning the basket was more angular and asymmetrical. We noticed that it wasn’t very functional or durable. So we decided to create a more universal and simpler shape. The final result is much more beautiful and practical thanks to a product development which lasted long enough time. We are thinking also about a smaller paper bin.
Soft low ease chair for KFF, 2008
Muuto Restore storage basket’s material is polymer felt made from recycled PET bottles. How important are the environmental matters for you as a designer?
My starting point is always the product’s functionality and durability. And important is also the fact that people like the product. This way it will be in use as long as possible.
You have studied at the London Royal College of Arts. How has this influenced your design?
There you learn to be critical with everything you do. They put emphasize the importance of a thought or idea behind the product.
Lapa candle holder for SpHaus, 2007
How can you recognize a product designed by Mika Tolvanen? And what are you working on at the moment?
I have been told that I like rounded angles. It’s probably not very Finnish. At the moment I’m working on a sofa, a lamp and different chairs.
How does your home look like?
Probably like a typical home of a designer couple. We have tried to avoid accumulating useless stuff - everything there is in use.
Sivu magazine rack & sidetable for E&Y, 2005
What are your hobbies?
Cycling. And two years ago I joined the Canoe Club of Helsinki. Going around the islands in front of Helsinki on a sea canoe is a great activity.
What would you suggest to do in Helsinki during the summer?
I would recommend to rent a kayak, with it it’s easy to move around in waters.
Text: Mikko Vaija
Translation: Daniela Chiucchiù
Designer portrait: Hertta Kiiski