Chatting with Marianne Huotari, a young Finnish designer, is very inspiring. She seems full of curiosity, with a constant desire for self improvement. Although this Helsinki-based designer is still in the beginning of her career, she’s already familiar with many materials. Marianne has a degree in textile design, but she has also worked with wood, ceramics and metal.
What is the secret of such versatility? ”I simply get interested in various things and always want to learn more. When a designer knows the manufacturing techniques and properties of different materials, it widens the horizon and opens up so many opportunities,” Marianne tells us. Although Marianne uses different materials, the philosophy behind her work remains the same. Her aim is to create minimalistic, timeless and long-lasting objects made of high-quality materials, things that are lifelong companions for their owners. According to Marianne, the long lifespan of a product is a combination of many factors. ”It’s not only about what the product looks like. It’s also about the attention the product gets, how long it stays on the market and so on. However, some of these factors are beyond the control of the designer. There are plenty of products that could be long-lived from an esthetical and usability point of view, but they just haven’t found the consumers like others have.” One of our favourites among Marianne’s works is Lippa shelf system, an ingenious product especially for small spaces. The shelf can either be kept open for storing everyday items elegantly and discreetly, or folded up. Either way, it’s a very beautiful object, like a piece of art.
Marianne designed Lippa during her Master of Arts studies, and it’s her personal favourite too. ”It’s one of my first works in object design, and it got me interested in designing three-dimensional items. It’s a product that I fully believe in – multifunctional, and with a lot of potential.” Marianne sees a strong Nordic influence in her work, and that especially Finnish nature has left its mark on her. ”My parents come from the Kainuu region in Eastern Finland, and I have spent all my childhood summers there in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps I have adapted a certain mentality and way of thinking from there,” Marianne says. For example, the Käpy (in English cone) lamp designed together with Inni Pärnänen beautifully displays the Nordic spirit and reminds us of the light Finnish summers and the midnight sun – a time when the sun doesn’t set below the horizon at all, day or night.
The versatile Finn comes up with new design ideas by observing her surroundings and being open to inspiration. Some ideas require more time to grow and ripen. For example, at this moment Marianne is preparing a new product for this autumn’s Habitareevent, the annual Helsinki-based furniture, interior decorations and design fair. The idea for this product, still kept secret, occured to her already in 2009, when she visited Japan. ”I had this idea for many years and I only knew that I wanted to find a new way to manufacture it. Until now I didn’t have the right raw material for this idea, but now I’ve chosen ceramics. But, for example, with jewelry I’m much more impulsive: I have an idea, I try it out, and I don’t necessarily hone it that much.” We have often wondered how a designer finds the right shape and form for an object. Marianne’s way is to work the material right from the start with her hands, not to make sketches or drawings first. She also uses modern technology, such as 3D printing, in her planning process. ”I think it’s nice to try out the new stuff, and it’s good that a designer keeps up with the times. I’m sure that soon we all will have 3D printers at home. Of course I also value the traditional handicraft methods and strongly believe that we shouldn’t let them die out.” At this moment most of Marianne’s products are prototypes and unique pieces of design. She makes items on order, but there aren’t yet any retailers for her products, apart from the jewelry that are sold at Nudge and Lokal in Helsinki and in Nudge’s webstore. Marianne founded recently her own brand, STUDIO smoo, and is actively searching for manufacturers for her designs. For example, in August she’ll participate in the Formland trade fair in Denmark and hopes to find some collaborators there. ”It requires a lot of work to be an entrepreneur and do everything yourself – designing, marketing and all. Sometimes I feel there aren’t enough hours in a day,” Marianne says. Her dream is to work fulltime as a designer, both working for her own brand and doing freelance projects for different companies. Another option would be to work in a bigger design agency to gain experience and to expand her networks. Material-wise Marianne’s next step is probably glass. ”I haven’t used glass that much so far, and it’s a material with numerous opportunities,” she says – sounding again both excited and determined.