The Story Of A Small Design Studio
I started Muk, a small design studio working in multi-disciplinary fields, in 2012, right after I got out of my job as a curatorial assistant at SALT and wasn’t knowing what to do with my career (or my life).
I went travelling with my boyfriend at the time, who was extremely supportive of my artistic endeavours. During our trip, by a leap of faith, in a tiny bookshop in Amsterdam, I found a hardcover open spine embossed book, called How to Make Books by Esther K Smith. I read the whole thing in one night, and ideas started coming to me immediately.
I have never felt more inspired in my life. I literally ran (actually flew) home and got to work.
I actually wasn’t on my own. After I got back from travelling, I came together with my good friend Melike, and together we decided to do something with what I’ve learnt from Esther’s book. Melike and I went to the same architecture school, but she was working to become an academic, while I chose to not pursue a career in architecture at all. We had a few people that we looked up to, who were doing handmade notebooks, like Taş Makas Kağıt and Sinek Sekiz, all of whom were also from the same architecture school as us. Making notebooks was apparently a thing among architects back then.
As a team, we came up with our very first designs, the Architecture Series, and soon after, parted ways.
Doing a PhD in architecture was a full-time job, while I was still jobless and clueless. It was a friendly break up, and I can’t express enough how much I appreciated our initial partnership. She really gave me the much-needed confidence. and I couldn’t have started anything on my own. Melike is still a good friend and the biggest cheerleader for Muk.
I was pushed into the business world on my own, not quite knowing what to do next.
I was committed to investing zero money and all my time and energy into it. I worked from 7 am till 11 pm. 7 days a week. For months and months and months. I learnt the skills that I didn’t even know I needed along the way. I had no idea what I was doing, but business was giving me euphoria.
My entrepreneurial juices were flowing.
I learnt pretty much everything on my own and did absolutely everything by myself with occasional help from friends and family. I swear, I had no idea whatsoever what a business strategy was, or that I could (and should) be planning my growth. However, I did take open MBA classes at ITU, did get a certificate course in business and read lots of books. I figured out the basics and started feeling the kick. And I worked my peach off. I worked like nuts., I made work and put out there.
Eventually, I started getting approached by people.
First I sold my collection at Taşkışla Şenlik, thanks to a friend who was one of the organisers. There I met Tunc Topcuoglu, who commissioned me for my very first bespoke notebooks. (He’s a very influential person for me, and I’m sure has inspired many others throughout years. So why not, watch his Turkish TED Talk.) I then realised for the first time my area of influence through my craft. Just like that. And day after day Muk turned from a vague idea about handmade notebooks into a known stationary brand.
A few months later, Pera Museum approached me.
They asked me to design a stationery collection that would be sold in their museum shop during an upcoming exhibition Between Desert and Sea. This was an uber cool job not just because THEY approached me first, but also it was sooooo exciting to see their new exhibition before everyone else. This job required having an eye for curation and knowing the preferences of a client other than Muk’s. We had an excellent chemistry with them and kept working together for years and years.
This encouraged me to initiate more deals.
I, for instance, then approached to SUPERPOOL and Pelin Derviş, who I knew from my SALT days, to do a collaboration with them on their Parks of Istanbul project, as a tribute to #OccupyGezi. It was cool and intimidating to work with people you have idolised.
I was always craving growth and in 2013, moved to London.
I needed to rip myself off from my Istanbul sea, which I was getting very very comfortable in, and throw myself into an ocean. So, I jumped in. I had no idea how to keep a physical business remotely, I didn’t know how to bring it with me, and I didn’t know how to let it go. Then what was meant to be happened.
I joined forces with the ultimate girlboss, my mum Sevgi, as business partners.
She very gracefully and masterfully managed all our new businesses, sales and retail partners, while I saved all my time for creative stuff, like design and marketing. Since we’ve teamed, Muk has grown immensely, and that’s all thanks to Sevgi’s hard work and passion.
Of course, it hasn’t been the easiest ride.
There have been lots and lots and lots of disagreements, arguments and emotional breakdowns. But at the end of the day, we have reached a perfect balance. We are different like night and day, which makes us stronger as a team — and perhaps as mother and daughter. I love working with my mum. I don’t think I say this enough, but I learn so much from her every day.
You’re the best, mum!
There are so many more highlights along the way, but this pretty much brings us to the present. I know this is supposed to be a post about the past. So I’m not going to get too much into the future. But I can’t end this blog without mentioning all the incredible Muklovers, who have kept following us throughout years. Needless to say that all we do is for you, and thanks to you we’ve made it this far. So a thousand and counting big high five to all of you out there. Muk loves you too.
In September 17th, 2017, we’re turning 5.
We’re practically a toddler! One week, 4 days to be exact, before London Design Fair, where we’ll be launching Muk in the UK, and one month (and 5 days) before I turn 30. A big big big year for us. It’s unbelievable to see how much we’ve matured with still much passion to grow. As I’ve shared with you earlier this year, we have taken a loooong break, got ourselves all freshened up and ready to go again. We have a new logo, new designs and our website is on its way up. We are ready for a bigger audience and much bigger work. Don’t worry — we’ve got surprises up our sleeves.
Thank you everyone. Oh, I’m getting emotional. 🖤 🖤 🖤