Creative People

The Turkish, Sydney-Based Designer Making 'Awkward' Stackable Ceramics We Love

Elif Esmez is the brains behind ESMEZ — a design studio creating objects made from clay.

The Sydney-based, Turkish designer has been working with ceramics for almost 10 years, but only launched her first product series last year, revealing a range of pedestal plates and bowls made to be stacked (inspired by the Turkish word ‘istif’, meaning ‘stack of/stacking).

While Elif says she has a bit of a ‘love-hate relationship’ with the finicky medium of clay, we can’t help but love her slightly imperfect pieces!

Christina Karras

Sydney-based Turkish designer Elif Esmez is the brains behind design and production studio, ESMEZ.

ESMEZ ceramics are specifically designed to be stacked, despite the various shapes and sizes!

The range is inspired by the Turkish word ‘istif.’ ‘Istif means “stack of/stacking” in Turkish, which is etymologically borrowed from Greek,’ says Elif.

‘I’m inspired by colours, textures, abstract/playful shapes, and challenging myself with the material,’ Elif says.

Pieces vary from pastel colours to milky tones and speckled patterns.

Ceramics are carefully handcrafted from a delicate porcelain clay.



Christina Karras
7th of July 2023

After graduating from a design degree in 2009, it didn’t take Elif Esmez long to realise she was more of a tactile person who wanted to ‘work with her hands’ in ways beyond sitting at a computer.

‘I started to take some basic hand building ceramic classes to learn how to work with clay basically, and that was the hook!’ Elif says. ‘It’s been almost 10 years now and I still have so much passion for it.’

Elif still works at a computer sometimes — as a freelance graphic designer — but following years of working at multiple ceramic production studios of different products, she recently decided to launch her own design studio, ESMEZ. She recently revealed her debut collection, ITSEF.

ISTIF means ‘stack of/stacking’ in Turkish and describes Elif’s pedestal plates that come in various sizes designed to be stacked. The result sees mini mountains of milky white and pastel ceramics that are both ornamental and functional.

‘I’ve always been attracted by the shape of pedestal plates and bowls, but actually the idea was creating a product with more than one function and different uses, not limited to table setups or food serving,’ Elif says.

She sees her pieces as a multipurpose ‘blank canvases’ for the user to interpret however they need, whether that’s as a centrepiece for a dinner party; a window display; or as a quirky sculpture in their own right.

Using ‘awkward’ or irregular as her inspiration, Elif starts her creative process with sketches on paper. ‘Once I feel happy with it, I shape it out of clay and create the model to make my plaster moulds,’ she says.

‘Ceramic production is a long handcrafting process, especially since the porcelain clay I use is so delicate to work with. Clay has a memory — how you treat it in the process shows that in the end.’

The playful pieces reveal soft textures and dents of Elif’s light touch.

Elif says she already has plans to create a similar collection, but this time out of glass. We can’t wait to see what she does next!

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