• Art / Design / Craft,  People

    portrait of the kumbaracı artist: monika bulanda

    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…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  Places

    old friends, new business: iznik works

    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…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Adahan Hotel

    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…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    The mill

    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…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Osman Usta: the Master beneath the mosque

    I don’t know about you, but I like a well made shoe. In fact, I prefer a pair. These days, however, it seems you have to go to Italy or Spain to find a good handcrafted shoemaker … or so I thought. Skeptical? I was too. Despite a tip from my friend, Metin — a man of substance and style —I learned about a fine shoemaker in my own backyard. Much to my amazement, beneath Yeni Camii (New Mosque) in Yeniköy, there is, in fact, an artisan shoemaker. He is also turning out some extremely stylish men’s boots in supple leather and silky soft suede, and has been doing so for no less than about 50 years. To my embarrassment, I walked by his shop for almost two-and-a-half years without a second glance. Perhaps it’s because it seems like a relatively modest storefront and workshop. Let this be a lesson…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Nihat Usta

    At 79A Kumbaracı Yokuşu, the street that falls from Istiklal Caddesi to Tophane, exists a portal into a another world. This is the dükkan of master craftsman, Nihat Usta. Every day Nihat Usta boards the early morning motorboat to make his way from Anadolu Kavağı to his Pera workshop where he restores the most incredible furniture from another era. From his shop emanates a glow. Is it the materials like mother of pearl and wood that he works with? Or the aura of a man who can create something that much of us only dream of? In any case, there’s something vital as well as timeless (at least, I hope so) about this place. Let’s hope that businesses like Nihat’s thrive for years to come. They are something that keep the spirit of places like Beyoğlu from becoming artificial or feeling gentrified. Thanks for keeping it real, Nihat Usta.

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Contemporary Istanbul

    If you happen to be in Istanbul today, and are wondering what to do, drop by Contemporary Istanbul. Even if the venue is not quite right for the subject matter the selection of talent and work is something special. It’s especially encouraging to see contemporary Turkish art take its place right next to international artists without any dissonance. I’ve been a little distracted (in a good way) the last couple of years, so I haven’t had much chance to monitor what was going on art-wise locally to the extent I’d like to so it was particularly nice to bump into friends and artists like Emel Kurhan and Ahmet Polat, both of whom are enjoying international success. It’s particularly interesting to view art with other artists and discuss the work without pretence. It’s a fair, which means it’s every bit as much about transaction and collection as it is appreciation. As…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Dragon and his lamps

    Don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for workshops. I think it’s great to  see how people work, how they create. Today I went to the old city as we just move house and are in need of some new lighting. I decided to go old school, as in Ottoman old school. For some of my Turkish friends Ottoman touches around the house can feel a little kitsch, but I like an eclectic mix of contemporary and old, and one of the things I really enjoy, kitsch or not, are Ottoman-style lamps. In order to see if I could save some money, I decided to pay a visit to a han where I remembered seeing a lamp maker. At first, I thought he was gone but then I called out up the stair above the closed dükkan above and then then popped my head up the stair, where I…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    The arc

    Whatever happened to the arc (or arch) in architecture? Did it simply become unnecessary with modern building materials and methods?  I have to say I like a nice curve. Yesterday I spent a lot of time again looking for iconic Istanbul scenes for a project I’m working on for two fantastic Dutch clients of mine, but the icon I got stuck on was the arc. This post is in praise of parabolas. We certainly spent enough time calculating them in high school.

  • Art / Design / Craft,  Places

    Lola

    Yesterday just as I was prepared to admit defeat, I was hauled back from the verge of failure by Lola. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever find suitable summertime entertainment for Sof that didn’t involve retreating from the heat to a shopping mall. Fortunately, Lola—which stands for Lots Of Lovely Art—provided me with a new way to entertain my small one. This open, airy environment created by Alara Hindle in a storefront location up above Emirgan Park in Reşitpaşa, is focused on providing children with an entertaining, involving approach to art.