Monday, April 08, 2013

Istanbul Tuesday

Time for my teaching session, held in HraƧ Arslanyan's "Mahrec Art House" workshops.

Iron Jewellery Workshop - 7

HraƧ Arslanyan is an amazing jeweller, working with reference to traditional Ottoman forms. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to photograph his work but some pieces can be seen here.

The school is basically three rooms: two workshops and a reception area.  Hrac also has his own office and studio at the front of the building, a treasure trove of old tools, gemstones, curiosities and objets d'arts.

Iron Jewellery Workshop - 1

Ably assisted by Umut on translation, I introduced the students to the basics of working with found iron and steel which they took to enthusiastically, coming up with some interesting pieces, from the relative simplicity of a ring made from a section of flat file:

Iron Jewellery Workshop - 8

To the complex pendant made from a needle file and various screws:

Iron Jewellery Workshop - 10

Iron Jewellery Workshop -  6

The whole day was good fun and the students were quite fired up by the end. It was difficult working in translation, having to remember to let Umut catch up with me. Hoping very much that I'll be able to do this again very soon.

Iron Jewellery Workshop - 3

Sustained by sage tea!

After the workshop, we went to the Grand Bazaar where, behind the tourist facades lie real workshops in which there is a thriving metalsmithing industry.


Wandering through this courtyard, we heard the "tap-tap-tap" of the chasing-hammer. Umut spotted the worker through a window and we ascended a narrow staircase to the tiniest workshop where two men were chasing the basic silver for the outside of a jardiniere:

Chasing Workshop in the Grand Bazaar - 1

Chasing Workshop in the Grand Bazaar - 2

There is still a real market for this sort of work in Turkey, which is interesting: indeed, I had dinner with a Turkish/Scottish family during my visit and noticed that they had a large collection of large silverwares in their house, water-jugs, plates, ewers and the like. Having visited a few workshops in the course of the trip, I was surprised to learn that Turkey has had it's banking crisis, had it's recession (1999 or so) and that it was pretty much boom-time in the cities like Istanbul and Ankara. Workshops like this are busy and the traditional skills are in demand.

Chasing Workshop in the Grand Bazaar - 4

Time was pressing on as we left this place and headed off through the Egyptian Bazaar, also known as the Spice Bazaar , to get some dinner.

The Grand Bazaar

The spice bazaar sells, as you would expect, mostly spices and foodstuffs, though it is sad to see that between the food stalls there are gradually appearing the unpleasant plastic-made-in-China-future-landfill tourist tat.

We had dinner in a rooftop restaurant, overlooking the water and the New Mosque ("new" in the 1500s!). It is easy to find vegetarian food in Istanbul. Every restaurant we went to had a good range of little dishes of starters from which to compose a very decent meal and we ate heartily.


Umut having dinner and me feeding the friendly bread (before feeding myself on it)!

Feeding The Bread

New Mosque By Night

After dinner, we wandered past the New Mosque and back to the marvellous Cafe Kybele, where the waiters joked with us about our salty coffee experience and we spent a good hour looking through the wonderful sketchbooks of Trici Venola, an American artist who is plainly in love with Istanbul and has donated two enormous books of her drawings to the cafe. One of the pages details her visits to a jeweller in the Bazaar:


Bed, and another day in the city over.