• briken aliu’s guitars

    May 11th, 2013











    I’ve always admired people who can make music. There’s something about them, as if their minds existed  in two or more universes simultaneously. Which makes me think that the people who craft musical instruments for professionals must be  attuned to some truly special wavelengths. On Friday I happened to meet such an exceptional guy, someone who has been creating instruments since his mid-teens. While he’s now approaching 30, he has the keen gleam in his eye of someone who is making a living doing exactly what he loves. A self-described “gypsy” originally from Albania, Briken Aliu came to Istanbul with no friends and no Turkish as a teenager and has since set himself up as a preeminent musical instrument artisan, first apprenticing with Murat Sezen. While the economy has had an impact on his trade, at any one time he’s working on at least 6-7 projects, including a remake of a guitar that Django Reinhardt favoured. His expertise isn’t restricted to any particular style, either. He’s adept at fashioning Balkan instruments, electric guitars, jazz, classical, bass — you name it.  Mr Aliu  loves music, which is probably how he infuses such spirit into his work. His custom projects usually take about 3 months to complete. To see more from this gifted craftsman, please visit Briken Guitars. He’s making the music of our sphere more beautiful one note at a time.

  • workshop wonderland

    May 9th, 2013






    Yesterday I had an all too brief glimpse into the mind of one of the most fascinating creatives in Istanbul — someone who successfully blurs the line between art, architecture, design and craft — in what might well be the most distinctive style I’ve seen anywhere in years. At some point I will have to do a full exploration and profile of Sema Topaloglu’s Cibali workshop and showroom. Her work environment is a veritable wonderland of organic shapes and materials, prototypes and projects. You’d almost think you were standing in a special effects workshop for a motion picture, except that the materials are not made of foam and cardboard, and she’s not creating illusions, so much as fabricating a new physical reality in media such as Black Sea hardwood, raw iron, glass and marble. There are huge mushroom lamp models, wood blocks representing a neighbourhood planning project she’s working on, multi-level tables … glass and iron objects all coated in a layer of sawdust fresh from her usta‘s saw table. There are so many compelling things to look at that it’s hard to isolate your focus to one spot. Furniture swings open to reveal elaborate tool bits that look like a chest of ninja throwing stars. Although I’ve written about Sema before, she hasn’t been standing still for more than a nanosecond since I last saw her. She’s too busy blurring the lines between what creativity and professionalism, art and architecture, design and craft can be. Take a look at some of Sema’s projects here.

  • printemps’ last late night

    April 19th, 2013














    Last night was the final late night of Printemps Des Artistes 2013 and offered some its most enjoyable moments. Opening night was so busy you could hardly move, let alone appreciate the art on the walls. A particular high moment was watching Takayoshi Sakabe perform his Butoh dance. It was truly dramatic — and not simply because I thought he was going to knock some of my work off the walls. The man not only knows how to produce the most delicate brush strokes as a painter, he knows how to convey a series of really powerful emotional movements. It’s impressive to see such motion/emotion in  a gallery which can feel so otherwise restrained environment. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the exhibition there’s still this evening until 8pm and tomorrow until 8pm at Sainte Pulcherie Fransiz Lisesi. Thank you to everyone who came by. It was a great experience.


  • printemps des artistes

    April 12th, 2013


    Tonight from 18:30-22:00 the doors open on Printemps Des Artistes 2013 at Sainte Pulchérie Fransız Lisesi. The theme of the exhibition is Passages. And I’ve been anticipating it for months because I am one of the nine creative people included in the exhibition. Yesterday when I went to hang the pictures I got a firsthand preview of the eight other minds contributing to the show. It’s a really interesting international mix with some established talent and some newcomers (such as yours truly). If you can’t make it tonight, please drop by some time between tomorrow and the 20th — except Sunday, when the gallery is closed. There’s also going to be a party next Thursday from 18:30 to 22:00 (the 18th) where Takayoshi Sakabe, one of the painters, will perform a Japanese Butoh dance and Stephanie Westdal will provide some of her signature songs. Also on the afternoons of Tuesday and Friday between 13:00-15:00 there’s meet the artist sessions. Look forward to greeting you there.

    DIRECTIONS: Towards the Taksim end of Istiklal Caddesi find Kuçük Parmakkapı Sokak (if you’re walking from the Square there’s a McDonald’s on the corner, on your left). Walk straight down the road about 75 metres until you come face-to-brick with Istanbul Atatürk Lisesi. Turn right, walk 15 metres and then turn left onto Çukurluçesme Sokak walk another 20 metres and ring the gate (if the door’s not open) at number 7 Sainte Pulcherie Fransız Lisesi. The gallery is downstairs. 



  • think …

    April 8th, 2013








    How is it that a colour can so dominate one little girl’s imagination? This post is dedicated to someone who wants to see, touch, drink and think in one colour, and one colour only. Guess which one it is.

  • street colour, street art

    February 24th, 2013









  • portrait of the kumbaracı artist: monika bulanda

    February 21st, 2013


    There’s nothing quite like a glimpse into the mind of a working artist, and today I was afforded one on the street that seems to draw all sorts of talent theses days — Kumbaracı. Though it’s a humbling experience to see someone with so much talent at work, it’s also incredibly satisfying as well as inspiring. And Ms Bulanda is certainly not short on talent. In addition to being an accomplished visual artist, she is also a professional drummer, vocalist and musician with over 15 years experience recording work. On top of that she speaks five languages — one of them being Mandarin. However, let’s talk about her visual work, which she turned to not out of a need to sell something, but as a source of creative expression. It was only a little while ago, in fact, that she started to give her visual work the full time attention it deserved,  Ms Bulanda builds incredible cityscapes out of various media — hologram paper, printouts, scans of old Ottoman script, you name it — and then fashions elaborate three-dimensional works from them. Some are skylines, others bird’s-eye views, but all are laboured over with dedication and feeling. The floor of the studio is carpeted with cut out paper scraps. The photos I’ve taken don’t really do justice to the play of light over her media, which demand god-given lenses in order to appreciate the breathtaking texture and painstakingly constructed detail. Only then will you feel the rhythm of the recording artist at work here, the changes in tone and colour. I look forward to seeing her full array of works, including video displays, on April 11 at ALAN Gallery, above Simdi Cafe on Asmalımescit Sokak in Beyoğlu.









  • old friends, new business: iznik works

    February 19th, 2013


    Whenever I’m in the Covered Bazaar there’s one place I choose to go to first — Dhoku. Not only do I find their modern take on the craft of kilim-making beautiful, I really like the family involved in creating and selling them. I can easily see a few hours disappear with no problem over a glass of tea. Today when I stopped by to see them, I saw that there was a new addition to the family. A brand new tile and ceramics store. One of the reasons I became friends with these guys is that I’ve always liked the way the Güreli family does business. They have a sense of humour and are plenty of fun and never pushy with sales. They’ve brought that same sensibility to life in their new venture, and are providing the full range of plates and tiles, from handcrafted and artisan to the more commercially made quartz-free porcelain. Essentially what this means is that you can find a range of styles and designs from something very affordable as a courtesy for your second cousin thrice removed to a hand-painted treasure that should stay in the family for generations. Their new store is tastefully chock-a-block with plates, tiles, vases and kaftans, and Mevlevi figures and is a throughly welcoming experience in both the manner in which the works are presented and in the approach of the gentlemen who work there. Hayirli olsun! I say.







    Kapalıçarşı, Takkeciler Sokak no: 41-43, Fatih, Istanbul
    +90 212 522 4242

  • Adahan Hotel

    February 4th, 2013


    Today I had a chance to get a glimpse of a really interesting renovation in Beyoglu. While it might feel somewhat sparsely furnished with the cavernous ceilings, the ample light, and raw feel of the materials gives this place a real beauty. I’ve seen many Beyoglu buildings restored, but nothing quite like this. Its feel, and the amount of wood make this something special. The other feature which makes it special is the fact that its owners refused to use any concrete in the restoration process. Sedat Sırrı Aklan, who supervised the renovations, is adamantly opposed to the use of concrete on moral grounds, because it is both anti-artisan and only used for profit motives. One of the things I really appreciate is the light touch they’ve used, leaving some of the beautifully weathered surfaces exposed. Here’s a glimpse of this vastly different hotel. I’m eager to check out their rooftop eatery too which may well bear further investigation.







  • The mill

    January 28th, 2013


    Last week I gave a brief glimpse of the mills around  Denizli. Today I thought I’d offer you a bit more these mills is really incredible. Everything is covered in cotton cobwebs, glistening in the slanted sunlight. Heated by small iron wood stoves these mills still operate what are still considered hand-looms, because the pattern and the threading is intently monitored by the men who control them.  It think these places are something quite beautiful to behold, and I hope you’ll agree. There are no computers and no button pressing automation, so each product they weave has unique variations. These men are making pestemal, many of which are destined for my friends at Hamamist and are all the rage right now in Australia. For my non-Turkish readers, if you’re not familiar with these wonderful towels, you should investigate them. Not only are they beautiful, but they’re light, thin and incredibly absorbent, perfect for holidays and the washing machine, because they don’t bulk up your luggage or your laundry.