• old friends, new business: iznik works

    February 19th, 2013

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    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.

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    IZNIK WORKS
    Kapalıçarşı, Takkeciler Sokak no: 41-43, Fatih, Istanbul
    +90 212 522 4242
    www.iznikworks.com

  • Rummaging in the past: Aslıhan Pasajı

    December 17th, 2012

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    Today was a truly miserable, wet day. On top of that, the weather was bad. Perhaps on days like this there are few better refuges than the world of books. Fortunately, I had a chance between meetings wandering through Beyoğlu to pop into this fantastic pasaj just off the Balık Pazarı. This place is crammed full of interesting books, documents, newspapers and media from another time — to such an extent that you could totally lose all sense of the here and now. A good thing, in my opinion, especially on a day like today.

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     Galatasaray, Beyoğlu/İstanbul‎  34435

  • Dragon and his lamps

    October 23rd, 2012

    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 was fortunate enough to find Ejder Bey. Ejder means “dragon” in Turkish, which is kind of cool. This dragon doesn’t breathe fire, however. Instead, he breathes light into lamps. Not only did I find a good price on some Ottoman style lighting, I got to hang out and see him assemble the pieces. I really enjoyed his workshop. All the bits and pieces, the metal shavings on the floor. I love the mess in here. There’s something very satisfying about the disarray. A tidy workshop seems dishonest somehow, don’t you think?

  • Sultanahmet Style

    October 6th, 2012

    I don’t know about you, but I think people with genuine style often don’t even know they have it. They’re effortless with it, rather like this gentleman I saw using a public telephone in Fatih. How many people still use a public phone? Better yet, how many people forego the so-called convenience of a mobile these days? There he was having a conversation on the phone smoking his cigarette and he just transported me to a different time and place. I was about to wander on, but then I decided I had to go back and ask him for his photo. Thanks, Ağabey.

  • The nargile fabrikası

    August 15th, 2012

    Life takes you on some unexpected turns sometimes, but today when I rounded a different corner in my effort to complete a mental map of Sultanahmet’s hans, I discovered a nargile (hookah/water pipe) manufacturing operation. That’s the thing I love about this area. There’s the tourist attractions, and then there’s the real neighborhood, a crumbling, cracked but still moving area of enterprise and trade.

    Though it can be a little intimidating at times peering down dark corridors, there always seems to be a reward waiting at the end. As I was exploring another dark tunnel today, a voice cried out and invited me in. That voice was Mustafa’s. He and his good friend, Yusuf, were hard at work hand-crafting the tubing and pipe section of the water pipes for the factory. Mustafa, 30, (pictured below) has been doing this for over 15 years, and has taken over the business from his father who has had this same dükkan for 40 years.

    Though hard at work — he hand makes over 100 pipes a day — I was invited in and offered a glass of water, and was later offered a cigarette too, which I thought was rather amusing considering we were in the midst of a water pipe factory. Mustafa and Yusuf were relentless. Painting leather strips with glue, rolling piping, cutting fabric, they were like two human machines working at twice the tempo of the music blasting from the radio.

    Business is of course, tough, and just about everything made in Turkey these days is always under threat from China, even it appears, something as specialized as nargile. I have to say that I really enjoyed the half an hour I spent chatting with these two. Their hospitality was great, and I was invited to drop back in any time.

  • Sultanahmet: a welcoming world of arcaded alleyways

    August 12th, 2012

    There’s the Sultanahmet of the Grand Bazaar, Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque and then there’s Sultanahmet — backstreets, strange alleyways, crumbling archways, workshops pulsing with odd music. These days there’s an odder feeling then ever, what with the intense heat and Ramazan it’s important to find shaded spots whether you’re fasting or not. I was somewhat surprised just how many people weren’t fasting when I plunged inside the off-street maze the other day, as I always think of the old city as a place where life is lived a bit more traditionally. There are plenty of fasters, don’t get me wrong, most snoozing on rugs in corners to escape the long and trying day. I can only imagine what it must be like to fast this Ramazan when the days are so long. However I also saw plenty of tea drinkers and cigarette smokers puffing away as well, who were looking significantly more animated.

    What also impressed me was just how cool it was in these shaded corridors. These old buildings, cracked and deteriorating, nevertheless have thick walls and arcades deep in a shade that the heat doesn’t seem to penetrate. It’s still hot, just not unbearably so. The other thing that struck me is just how friendly people are in this part of the city. After my recent experience trying to photograph flowers on a public street in my own neighborhood went so awry (see Delicate flowers), it’s nice to feel welcome in this very different part of the city. Despite feeling much more like an interloper wandering in this party of the city, I’m not treated as one. This country never ceases to amaze me. And I mean that in every sense.

  • The Antique Market – Kapalıçarsı

    June 21st, 2012

    After a few years of living in a place, you tend to avoid the touristy areas. My one exception is the antique market in the  Kapalıçarsı (Covered Bazaar). This place never fails to entertain me. My wife and I like to pay regular visits to the bazaar simply to soak up the feel. It’s truly a city within a city. There’s an incredible mixture of stuff, from the kitsch and cheap, to the truly antique and interesting — from pocket watches, naval instruments, old film cameras, illuminated pages, and semi precious stones. Read More…

  • Discovered in a han

    June 19th, 2012

    In my dreams I ascend buildings, while the stairs behind me crumble into a gaping abyss. Up and up I go while the way back down becomes impossible. There’s something of that feeling every time I discover a new, or rather, an old han. These old trade buildings provide endless inspiration for me, and I get lost in them in more ways than one. There are the sounds, the clink of hammer on metal, a distant voice penetrating a cracked door, a laugh. Silhouettes at the end of corridors, engulfed in blinding light. The feel, the mustiness of age and neglect. A wary look from a passerby. The whir of retrofit air conditioners. Then there are the other discoveries. Read More…

  • The Book Bazaar: Sahaflar Çarşısı

    June 1st, 2012

    On rainy days there’s nothing better than taking refuge in a book. Yesterday I escaped a flash downpour in the Old City  under the awnings at the Sahaflar Çarşısı, a book bazaar located right next to the Covered Bazaar’s Beayzıt door.  While the slate sky above lit up and roiled with thunder, I discovered that there’s everything here from university textbooks to religious scripture, out of date travel guides, pulpy pocketbooks, massive coffee table tomes—and even a book claiming it had the inside scoop on the steamy life of Ottoman harems. Most of the stores don’t have a great selection for English readers but there are a few with a decent stock, including Gözen Kitap ve Yayın Evi, which has some splendid art books. As usual if you have cash, you can talk down the price of discovering all those sordid Ottoman Harem secrets. Definitely worth a peruse — the book bazaar, I mean.

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  • The Hidden Han.

    December 13th, 2011

    THIS HAN IS HOME TO SILVERSMITHS AND OTHER METAL WORKERS’ WORKSHOPS.

    I stumbled into this old han back in the summer and have since returned. It’s exactly the sort of place that makes me love Istanbul. Located in Sultanahmet it’s out of the way, cracked and crumbling, easily overlooked but still thriving with life. Part of the reason I’m being vague about its name and location is because I’m afraid some crass developer will come in, knock it down and plunk some horrible hotel or shopping mall in its place.

    AN ALATURCA LAMP-MAKER’S WORKSHOP.

    Right now it’s home to all sorts of ustalar (tradesmen)mainly working in metals like silver, copper and brass. There’s a massive courtyard in the center, and just about every bolt hole is occupied by some form of life or trade. Read More…