Story of one of the Future Lights in Ceramics 2019 winners: Maria Punkkinen

Contemporary Design master student Maria Punkkinen from Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Finland, is one of the six winners of the European Future Lights in Ceramics 2019 competition. The winners were selected last fall in Kilkenny, Ireland, and their year as European Ceramics Ambassadors started in the beginning of 2019. In early February, the winners took part in the Ambiente consumer goods trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany.

Maria Punkkinen: Suoja (detail) (2018), hand built stoneware and drawing, 27 x 35 x 24 cm.

Competition theme: Go Green – Ceramics and the Environment

Future Lights in Ceramics is an annual competition for people in the early stages of their career in ceramics. Now the competition was organised for the fourth time and this time the theme was Go green – Ceramics and the Environment. “It is increasingly clear that we will have to focus more on our environmental needs than ever before, producing goods that are sustainable and ecological. Products made out of ceramic can meet these new and important issues.” the jury chair Wilhelm Siemen describes the theme of the competition. In the competition, the judges wanted to discover talented early career professionals who explore in their work the questions of sustainability, ecology and resource-saving in both production and use.

“For me going green is about thinking before acting and about respect for materials, and sharing and passing on knowledge.” Punkkinen reflects on how she sees green thinking in relation to her own work. She was surprised by the victory because at first, she didn’t even think about participating as she thought she was merely a student and wouldn’t therefore have a chance. The aim of the competition is to support people in the early stages of their career in ceramics, to encourage cross-disciplinary learning and approaches, and to promote ceramics to younger audiences. The competition winners were chosen from a shortlist of sixteen applicants who presented their works in Kilkenny in September 2018 concurrently with the international Ceramics Ireland festival.

Maria Punkkinen. (c) Noora Karjalainen

“It has been exciting to meet new people and to travel to new places. And I have also been able to experience some kind of pride over my own work as I have exceeded myself for example by giving a speech.” describes Punkkinen her experience on taking part in the competition. The other winners of the Future Lights in Ceramics 2019 are Maria Braun (DEU/RUS), Manos Kalamenios (UK/GRC), Amy Mackle (NIR/IRL), Supawan Morris (SWE/THA), and Irina Razumovskaya (UK/RUS).

Ceramics and its Dimensions – European collaboration around ceramics

The competition was led by the Porzellanikon museum and co-organised by Staffordshire University, the Design and Craft Council of Ireland and the British Ceramics Biennial. Future Lights in Ceramics forms one sub-project of the four years long European Ceramics and its Dimensions project that covered European ceramics from the perspectives of the past as well as the future. The project ended in November 2018 and is now applying for funding for a continuation.

The project had eighteen partner institutions in eleven countries in Europe and Empirica research group from Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Design was one of the project partners leading one of its ten sub-projects Ceramics and its Dimensions: Shaping the Future. This sub-project explored the future possibilities of ceramics and design, and consisted of an experimental student workshop, a touring exhibition and a related publication. The Ceramics and its Dimensions project was partly funded by the Creative Europe programme of EU.

The future lights in ceramics

Through the Ceramics and its Dimensions project several students from Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture as well as from other European institutions have had the change to participate in international workshops and show their works internationally. Future Lights in Ceramics competition offers a great opportunity for students and early career professionals in the field of ceramics to create new contacts and gain international experience.

“The most important thing that has resulted from the victory so far, has been the getting to know new people from my own field, in other words the networks and contacts. We have also discussed some joints projects in the future, such as a touring exhibition.” Punkkinen tells. Next, the works of the competition winners will be on view at the Munich Creative Business Week in March and in summer the winners get to participate in a workshop where they can collaborate across disciplines and develop new work.

“I hope that through the competition new opportunities for work and collaboration will open and that I can learn new things. And of course, this brings faith to the idea that I could have a future in the field on which I want to work.” comments Punkkinen on the future prospects that the competition might open.

Maria Punkkinen: Syksy (2017) paper porcelain, light, 20 x 21 x 34 cm.

Maria Punkkinen’s web page:

Empirica research group blog:

Read more about the competition: