Friday, April 12, 2013

Istanbul Friday: Exploring the Hans

Galata Tower

Friday morning, I set off early to cross the Bosphorous and set foot in the Asian continent, the "Asian side" of Istanbul. The weather was clear and warm, by far the nicest of the week, and I boarded the ferry to Kadikoy.

Sunrise Over Asia

The journey takes around 20 minutes and I wasn't quite ready for the actual difference between the east and west sides of the city. The eastern side seems much more laid-back, much less crowded than the west, though the driving is just as bad!

Waiting to meet Umut and Ufuk, I wandered around the area of the ferry terminal, exploring the many derelict buildings there.

28 - 28

After we ate breakfast in a lovely open-air restaurant, we headed to Umut's flat so that I could see her workshop-gallery space and see the rabbit her father made for her last month. She was unsure about why he had a moustache and when she asked her father, he told her, "It makes it more masculine".

Mad Rabbit

The gallery and workshop space in the flat is given over to the work of both Umut and her husband, James (Thurman) and there are loads of exciting experiments, half-finished projects and completed work by them both, as well as works by their friends, both local and international. At the moment, Umut and James are working with two other artists on a collaborative project which sees elements being passed between all four parties to make single completed pieces in which each artist has a distinct contribution. I was very taken with the one completed piece which I saw as it appears to be a unified item with no hint of any disconnect in vision between the contributors. I have no pictures of this work, but am sure that Umut will post some soon.

After this, we met up with Ufuk again and headed off for lunch in a bustling area of food shops and stalls.

Fresh Almonds

Returning to the European side of the city, we returned to the Grand Bazaar to explore the hans (khan) or the little trading centres which operate around the area, generally away from the busy sections of the bazaar. Hidden away from the general view, up steep stone staircases, generally arranged around a central courtyard, these places are home to many workshops of all sorts.

In The Hans - 7

In The Hans - 11

As before, we heard the "tap tap tap" of the chasing hammer and went into a tiny doorway to find two men discussing a piece of work. Much to my surprise one of them - who turned out to be the head of the "Jewellers' Chambers", a local trade organisation - recognised me from one of the magazines which had featured my exhibition, which was both surprising and really satisfying.

Workshop Meeting

The silversmith was working on decorating a traditional silver jug.

Silversmith With Traditional Pot

In another workshop, we met with a spinner. He was keen to show us finished product rather than the process, which I would rather have seen.

Spinning Workshop

In some ways, this visit to the hans was the highlight of the week in Istanbul, especially when Ufuk wrangled us access to the roof of one of the hans...

In The Hans - 29

Istanbul From The Rooftops - 5

Ufuk On The Roof

Istanbul From The Rooftops - 6

On the roof, we found a collapsing room...

Istanbul From The Rooftops - 9

And in the collapsing room, we found a fantastic, corroded loom with fabric still on it.

Rooftop Loom - 2

Rooftop Loom - 5

Needless to say, quite a lot of this loom came back with me!
Back inside again, Ufuk took some excellent photographs of me and Umut in a saintly style:


After this, we returned to the gallery for dinner with Ayse and her friends.

Sexist Placemat

We met up with Ufuk in a pub afterwards and took a taxi back to the hotel, quite the most terrifying ride of the visit, a journey so frightening that Umut and Ufuk got out of the taxi at the hotel and took another one!

With heavy heart, I packed my things away, ready for the shuttle to the airport and a return to an icy UK, leaving my friends in the warm - in all senses of the word - city that I quickly came to love.