With her YurtCollection and the YurtStore, Güler Berk offers a platform for designers that are influenced by traditions found along the Silk Road. Her position as curator goes beyond finding and selling beautifully created objects. Güler sees design as a way to build bridges between East and West. ‘The word ‘yurt’ actually means ‘home’ in many countries along the Silk Road – from Mongolia to Turkey to Bosnia – as a similar language is spoken there. Nomadic people of Central Asia call their iconic tents ‘yurts’ since it represents their home.’
‘Before I started my previous job at Ahrend (European market leader in creating contemporary office furniture and lifestyles) I never focused on design. There, I became aware of the strong preference for clean and functional Dutch and Scandinavian design. I missed the warmth and craftsmanship of the Middle Eastern designs that I knew. When I started YurtCollection in 2013, I approached nine designers with personal connection to the Silk Road, to create a platform in the Netherlands. I wanted to steer clear of the frilly, souvenir-like, 1000-and-1-night connotation that Westerners usually have when speaking of Middle Eastern products and instead, focus on genuine craftsmanship and the beautiful materials that are used.’
‘After launching the website and connecting with resellers, I opened the YurtStore in 2015, to showcase the products in a more direct way. Nowadays, YurtCollection represents 32 designers. Next to the Middle Eastern designers, collective Istanbul’dan is a great example of how design can build bridges between East and West. These six German designers visit small-scale ateliers in Istanbul, to create unique products that reflect the city as well as its local craftsmanship.’
‘Creating a connection between East and West is also what I try to achieve with YurtCollection. It resonates with my personal life; although I was born in The Hague, my family originates from Anatolia, Turkey. I feel right at home in both cultures. I want to show that next to the political tensions in the Middle Eastern region and the horrific news that we read every day, the area still creates beautiful products (and relations) which can bring a sense of positivity to our homes.’
‘Turkish designer Mânâ Yildiz studied at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Her work focuses on body language, mimics and gestures. Speaking a language without words. The sultry design of her Tulip Cups refers to the human body. The fact that she uses the shape of a tulip – a flower that originates from Turkey and is known as one of the most iconic symbols of the Netherlands – in her designs, celebrates the connection between East and West.’
‘We should not only focus on our differences, since there are many similarities between our cultures too. Design and craftsmanship have the ability bring this to light. Several years ago, I watched a Dutch artist produce felt material. And when I was on holiday last summer, I watched an old lady do exactly the same. The production method was identical. The only difference was the material’s further use; either as part of an artwork or used for domestic purposes.’
We are happy to GIVEAWAY a set of two porcelain Tulip coffee cups from YurtCollection. Claim your gift beneath and maybe you are the lucky winner!
‘Zanat a Bosnian label – a name that can literally be translated as ‘craftsmanship’ – shows that design and ancient wood working techniques can go hand in hand. These techniques have been passed on to generations for hundreds of years and have been listed as UNESCO world heritage. By working together with young designers Zanat not only creates beautiful products, but a valuable connection too. It helps secure its unique craftsmanship for future generations.’
‘To me, YurtCollection is not merely about showcasing and selling products. Every product has its unique story to tell; either through the use of ancient techniques, the clever use of materials or the personal story of its designer. Hozan Zangana is inspired by language, traditions and rituals. In his designs, he uses elements of his Iraqi heritage and his current life in the Netherlands. Siba Sahabi, a critically acclaimed German-Iranian artist, also uses her work as a platform to show how different cultures interact. Through the experimental use of various materials, Siba translates cultural heritage into contemporary design.’
‘What are my future goals? YurtCollection uses design as a connecting factor. My second passion is food as it has similar qualities; binding people and cultures. In would love to see new concepts developing in which food and design are brought together, building bridges between East and West. I could also see a festival coming to life. Where people from all over the world can interact and exchange ideas, knowledge and their love for craftsmanship and design.’
What feeds your (daily dose) of inspiration?
‘Whenever I feel the need to clear my head or get some inspiration, I will take a walk or hop on my bike to be surrounded by nature. We live next to the Haagse Bos and close to the beach. Whenever I need to be reassured, nature shows me that life is beautiful. When I was sitting behind my laptop at the YurtStore the other day, an inquisitive blackbird came to say hello. She waited on the doorstep and we looked at each other for what seemed like ages. Small things like these can deeply touch me.’
‘I can also feel overwhelmed during the many road trips we make as a family. When I find myself on a mountaintop in the Alps taking in the scenery, I literally feel on top of the world. Or last summer, when we visited the tea plantations in North-Eastern Turkey, close to the Black Sea, there were tea plants as far as the eye could see. A truly magical sight.’
… place: ‘When I am back at work in The Hague, the Meijendel dunes is where I go for some peace and quiet. As soon as I hear the rustling of the poplar leaves, my body and mind relax. This inspired me to bring a small poplar tree with me from my last visit to Turkey. The tree originates from the small village where my mum was brought up. Let’s hope that in a couple of years, I can experience that soothing rustling sound in my own back garden!’
…artist: ‘I have a deep respect for craftsmen being able to create something with their own hands. Turning concepts into reality. Being able to use tools to produce something beautiful. This admiration has everything to do with my own inability to create products of that quality. Even if I would try for 100 years, I would not succeed to get anywhere near that level of craftsmanship.’
…MixDrink: ‘I can really enjoy a well-made Aperol Spritz. It brings back memories of a small café close to the home of my Italian mother in law. Although the drinks I order in the Netherlands will never taste as good as they do over there, it still reminds me of those good times we had in summer.’
Name: Güler Berk
Year of Birth: 1974
Country: The Netherlands
Education: Turkish Language Studies. University Leiden.
Start current brand: 2013
Place of work and residence: The Hague
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