Extraordinary Entrepreneurs: Tonfisk Design
Finland - Turku
In autumn 1994 as an eager design student in Dublin. I got the opportunity to come to Finland as an Erasmus student for 4 months. My father was very supportive of the idea as he was aware of their design tradition and had visited Finland himself. And so with two other college friends, we arrived into Helsinki one autumn Sunday evening and were struck by how quiet it was. This was the first of a number of culture shocks among many I would experience, but it would seem looking back that my fate was already sealed at that stage.
After finishing my studies in Dublin I was fortunate to be accepted back to Finland as a Master’s student. It was at this stage I began studying ceramic and glass design. During the 50’s and 60’s, Finnish designers introduced the world of modern, simple but often innovative designs in ceramic, wood and glass, and this tradition was of great interest to me. But also, as I lived there for longer, I began to assimilate to the everyday differences – like highly insulated buildings, hot water 24 hours a day, great public transport, and sauna cabins in the forest.
My fate was finally sealed when I designed the WARM tea & coffee series as my graduation work. The series combines laminated wood sleeves with ceramic cups and teapot. Wanting to design a mug my father would not burn his fingers on, the idea to combine the wood sleeve around the ceramic mug got started when one friend was working on a wood material course and another had made a mug with string as the ’handle’, and so the ideas mashed together.
After graduating I decided to stay in Finland and this led to Tonfisk Design being founded, with which I have now been working for close on 25 years. Here I design and make most of the products myself or with a small group of employees. With each product I try to create something new. Sometimes it is only little details, other times it is a new solution to a product.
I am now based in the city of Turku. Here I live with my family and where I try to keep coming up with new product ideas. I have been lucky enough to receive a number of design awards in Finland while the WARM series has become a small classic of Finnish Design.
Tonfisk Design is part of the 2022 To Be Irish Gifting Guide.