Design products from recycled materials

Design entrepreneur Adhi Nugraha 

Indonesian-born Adhi Nugraha designs crockery and cutlery. He makes them from recycled materials - coconut shells. It is trendy to use recycled materials in the West, but in Indonesia it is normal practice.

Adhi Nugraha, 42, is a design entrepreneur. He designs his products in Finland and has them manufactured in Indonesia. Nugraha’s environmentally friendly products combine western rationality with Indonesian handicraft skills.

“I do my work in a spirit of fair trade. A product sold in the western world might also provide bread for an Indonesian.”

Nugraha sketches his ideas on paper or on a computer, develops the model and travels to Indonesia to negotiate its manufacture. He does not stay in his native country long, though, as he has a wife and two children waiting for him back home in Finland.

Being an entrepreneur means constantly trying to market your products and always staying in contact with your customers and suppliers. Things are difficult at first for design entrepreneurs in Finland.

“I set up my company with my own savings and loans from relatives. My wife is a Finnish textile designer, so at first we set out only to employ ourselves.”

“ It is not enough to have an aesthetic point of view; a designer must also understand the world and global space.”

Nugraha was born in Jakarta but studied industrial design at Bandung Institute of Technology. He gained international experience as a designer at Babel Design, a company based in southern Germany. He applied to the University of Art and Design Helsinki in 1992.

“I was fascinated by the rational and lucid nature of Finnish design.”

After graduation the family moved to Indonesia for five years. Nugraha taught at Bandung and worked in his own company, while his wife designed and traded in textiles with local companies.

When they returned to Finland, Nugraha continued his studies at the University of Art and Design and started work on his doctoral thesis. At the moment he divides his time between his own design work and study. When he is concentrating on business he mainly works in his studio in Helsinki’s Katajanokka district.

Design work requires complete devotion to what one is doing. Nugraha examines the environment and tries to see things that other people do not see. He always has with him a pencil and sketchpad, as an idea may come to him anywhere, even on the tram.

He believes a designer must be broadminded and allow space for playing around, because the best ideas come from everyday humorous situations.

“Sometimes I seem to get nowhere with my ideas; sometimes I can’t think of anything. It’s mentally exhausting having always to create something new and different. So far, though, I have managed to get through the difficulties.

When Nugraha makes a new product he is happy. If consumers like it, then fine. Perhaps they will even buy it.


Text and photograph: Anu Likonen, Jukka Vuolle and Nanni Akkola
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy

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