Interview with Tar Tar founder Pinar Gercek in Kahve, Cihangar
Who or what are your influences?
My main influence in creating Tar Tar was Jean Michel Basquiat. I was doing some research on graffiti art in school and was totally blown away with his world of symbols, colors, references; his artistic world in general. I then decided that I was going to create my own label named Tar Tar (Tar is a word he repeatedly uses in his works) with his crown symbol upside down as the logo. I wasn’t sure what I was going to be selling at the time, but two years later I finished my studies, quit my job at the University, and Tar Tar was born.
What inspires you? From the Middle East? Around the world?
My education and studies were mainly on experimental costume design. So my way of thinking, reference points, and approach to design have been heavily shaped by this background. Naturally I have rich resources on history of costume and fashion, but my ideas usually come up from playing with materials. I like finding strange, unconventional materials. I also enjoy bringing together contrasting elements like natural and artificial. Playing with proportions, repetition, and color always leads to interesting results. I am always inspired by contemporary art, literature, other design disciplines like ceramic and graphic design and traditional crafts. Also, being born and raised in Istanbul, although truthfully very boring, both I eastern and western cultures are a part of our everyday life, which I believe has a big impact on us.
Tell us a bit about your production process: where do you produce? What materials do you work with?
I am working in my home studio at the moment. I have been using a wide range of materials: ropes, textiles, brass, wood, leather, pipe fittings, semi-precious stones, resin, crystals.
How long have you been in business? When did you start?
I first designed and produced Tar Tar’s signature rope necklaces in 2010 as part of a fashion design class in my Doctorate program. Later in 2011 along with some other designs, I presented them in a trunk show my friends were organizing, where they attracted a lot of attention and it expanded from there.
Why did you decide to become a designer?
Well I believe I have always been a ‘maker’ type of person. Even in my childhood games I enjoyed setting the stage, coming up with lighting ideas, etc. Although I am very passionate about the conceptual and intellectual side of designing, I think that those elements develop later with education. I always find something to do with my hands, be it gardening, drawing, sculpting or cooking. I think that is why I chose design school and particularly the Stage and Costume Design Department. It brought together several different design disciplines and practices. I ended my academic career to start my own business mainly because of this passion for making, and because I didn’t have time to produce for myself.
Describe a typical day in the studio.
After I incorporated resin and stones in my designs, my process became divided into two main parts. Modeling (sculpting, sanding, and drilling) - the messy part that requires precision and concentration. I prefer to do this part at the beginning of the day when the light in the studio is good and I am more sharp. After lunch, if I am finished with modelling I do the more relaxed part: sewing, weaving the cords, and attaching the finished parts. I usually go out for a walk by the sea in the afternoon. The best part of having your studio in your home is you can work as long as and whenever you want. This is of course an ideal working day spent creating, but there is usually a lot of paperwork or other business stuff to handle too.
Where did you study? Train? Work?
I graduated from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Stage and Costume Design Department. After graduation I worked at a luxury department store as a visual merchandiser for a short period of time and then went back to school to pursue an academic career. I did my MA and Doctorate (ongoing) at the same department, part of which I studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. I then worked as a research assistant for four years and during my studies I made projects on costumes for performance, masking/veiling and interactive costumes with sounds.
How would you describe your work in three adjectives?
Contemporary, playful, experimental.
Designer and Tar Tar founder Pinar Gercek lives in Istanbul (on the Asian side) with her boyfriend and their cat Turbo.
With contribution from Hala A. Malak.