“Atelier Terra Madre” is a brand that is born from the reflection of the enchanting nature, the beauty and uniqueness of delicate singularity and ostentatious diversity, paired with meticulous craftsmanship. Each piece is a fascinating artisan expression, reflecting the brand’s commitment to uniqueness and craftsmanship.
Its founders, Güliz and Efe Urgunlu, say that Terra Madre is a project for them to return to their essence, remember their roots, and remind themselves and others of old production methods. We listened to their brands consisting of a limited number of handmade tableware.
Güliz and Efe Urgunlu, can we get to know you first?
Güliz: First of all, hello to all readers. I’m Güliz… After studying at the Radio, Television and Cinema Department at Marmara University, I worked in the television industry as a Casting Director and Actor’s Manager for about 20 years. As my working life continued, I started to take an interest in ceramics as a hobby. As the process continued, our hobbies with Efe evolved in a completely different direction. This evolution has become a turning point in my life. I completely distanced myself from the television industry, where I worked for 20 years. Now, while I take care of our brand Atelier Terra Madre full time, I also continue to make ceramics.
Efe: Like Güliz, I would like to start by saying “Hello” to everyone. I’m Efe, I’m an interior designer. It’s my 22nd year in this industry. As an architecture office, we provide interior design project and application services mainly for food and food retail. My story of being an architect started like this; I first studied Textile Design at Mimar Sinan University, but left school in 3 years. I moved to the interior architecture department of the same university and graduated from here. My casting adventure, which started my professional life as an escape and a hobby, which has been going on for years, suddenly turned into a new job and gave us our brand, which we call “our new baby”.
So how did your design story begin?
Güliz: About 6 years ago we decided to move to the Netherlands. Before we moved, we opened a restaurant in Amsterdam to settle our business order. In our restaurant, we served our meals on white glazed Terra Cotta plates that we had made in Menemen, Izmir. Our plates were so appreciated and attracted so much attention that most of our guests came to us with offers to buy these plates. The demand has increased so much that we started to wonder if we should sell these plates here.
Efe: To tell the truth, we didn’t really want to trade. While these processes were going on, the idea of attaching feet to our plates emerged, which attracted great attention with the concern of adding an added value. For example, bronze animal feet could have been beautiful… Güliz and I also have an antiques interest. When the idea came to our minds, we started to look for animal feet in antique shops, but we could not find the feet that came to life in our dreams. One evening I decided to model myself and made a chicken foot out of clay. I planned to have the chicken feet I made cast bronze in the Grand Bazaar. But the masters did not bother, they said that it would not be and bronze would not be cast. In order to produce the bronze feet of my dreams, I said, “I will learn casting myself”. I got to work in a workshop; I started working on mold making and bronze casting. My learning process took about 1.5 years. During this time, I modeled not only chicken feet, but also duck heads, duck feet, and horse feet. I made the first sample dumps of all of them. When we took the feet in our hands, we thought that we could combine them with other materials that nature gave us; such as wood, glass, ceramic, marble etc.
Güliz: In the meantime, we have made various experiments and very pleasant results have been obtained. In this process, our Dutch adventure had come to an end for various reasons, but it gave us a new playing field.
So how did Atelier Terra Madre, your brand that you call “our new baby”, born?
Güliz: While we were playing with the first cast parts we had, we also named this new playground. We designed our logo, took photos with the first matches. We started using the first products while hosting our own guests.
Efe: Afterwards, an interior architect friend of ours shared these pieces with a very valuable name, and we received our first order. At that time we had neither stock products nor packaging. We designed our packaging, prepared the products, and after the first pieces of Atelier Terra Madre arrived at their home, we realized that we had a beautiful and exciting road ahead of us.
Can you talk about your processes? What kind of path do you follow in design and production?
Güliz: Atelier Terra Madre designs are shaped by the touch of many different craftsmen until they come to the table. After the first modeling is done, it includes many processes such as taking the mold, pouring the bronze, leveling it and combining it with the other material to be used.
Efe: When this is the case, we think we have a responsibility to highlight the value of the craft on this journey. We turn the production process of all materials into movies and bring them together on our YouTube page.
What are your sources of inspiration?
Efe: Our source of inspiration is nature itself! We take care to use all kinds of materials that Mother Earth offers us, both in form and material.
What kind of products do you design?
Güliz: Atelier Terra Madre collection generally consists of tableware. Such as serving plates, serving bowls, cutlery, coffee cups. In addition, linen napkins and tablecloths are among our textile products under the roof of our brand. In addition, decorative objects are also one of our designs…
Is there a material you never get tired of using?
Güliz: Bronze! Bronze is the indispensable material of our collections. We combine bronze, which we value very much, with many different materials, and create different designs.
What elements reflect you?
Efe: I think that animal forms are quite aesthetic and have completed their evolution. Perhaps for this reason, we combine it with the material bronze, which will further strengthen the sculpturality of these forms, making it a must-have in all of our products.
What makes your brand Atelier Terra Madre different from other design brands?
Güliz: The designs of our brand remind us that in today’s fast-paced world, the table is a ritual that should not be passed quickly. All of our models are limited and reach our consumers with a designer signed certificate and serial number stamped.
Do you have dreams about the future of your brand? What?
Efe:Güliz and I dream of being present in the homes and tables of collectors and people with gusto, not only in Turkey but also all over the world, with our designs.
What are your brand’s contributions to sustainability?
Güliz: We do not use plastic in the packaging of our products. Thus, we are trying to contribute to sustainability. Our aim is to create a collection that can be passed down from generation to generation by creating timeless designs.
Efe:After all, all Atelier Terra Madre products are objects that have an edition and are described as functional works of art in the literature.
How do you incorporate antiques into Atelier Terra Madre products? How do you give form to antique products?
Güliz:By combining antique scale pans, bath bowls, and crystal plates with bronze legs, we bring them into a form that we can use both as decorative objects and in table presentation.
Efe:We also dream of different forms that will develop and enlarge the collection… They will also be added to our collection gradually over time.
Are there any personal requests?
Efe: Yes, we also design special products apart from our collection. From time to time, a bronze-legged coffee table may be requested, or we receive requests for specially designed plates for special presentations by chefs in restaurants.
Do you have any new collection preparations?
Güliz: Our collection “Animals of Terra Madre” has just begun its adventure. While we bring Animals of Terra Madre together with its enthusiasts, new products will join the series. After that, of course, we will have different collection plans…
How is the interest in your products in foreign markets? What are you doing to announce your brand?
Efe: The comments we receive are very nice and motivating. In order to bring our brand and designs to wider audiences, we started a branding operation based in France in the past months. If everything goes as we want, we will open our first pop-up store in Paris at the beginning of 2024.
Where can consumers access your designs?
Güliz: We haven’t switched to the online sales system yet, but we are still working on this issue. We are currently hosting our guests in our workshop by appointment. We also receive orders via e-mail for people who are outside of Istanbul and cannot come.