31 October 2013

Avanos Friends & Neighbours

After 13 years of visits to the ceramic-focused Kapadokyan town of Avanos, I have made many pretty amazing friends. Thought I’d share some of them.

Ceramic artist Erdoğan Guleç owns the studio where I live and work while I’m in Turkey. His father and grandfather were both renowned Avanos potters.

Şerife Kılıç lives up the road from the studio, at the very top of the town.  Hers is the best view in all of Avanos. Perfect for breakfast in the garden.

Zekeriya Orman lives around the corner. He started helping Erdogan in the studio when he was a boy, and continues to help on occasion, though he now has a growing family & works for a large local hotel.

Roman Is the local computer wizard. He immigrated from Germany about 15 years ago, and lives in the heart of town with his wife, Aysha, and their daughter Natali.

Also from Germany, Suzanna has been a part-time resident of Avanos with her husband Mikail for more than 20 years. Drawn here, like me, by the clay, the ambience, and the people, Suzanna now makes her home here. She’s one of the few people in Avanos with whom I can carry on complicated conversations in English.

 Ali Fuat Illeez is the best carpet seller in Turkey.

Hakan has a large production pottery in the industrial area of Avanos, where his brother, Gökan makes and fires traditional local ware. It is from Hakan’s shop in the centre of town that I get the beautifully decorated bowls with which I am slowly building my dinnerware collection.

 Edip Akbayram is a kind & humble man, and probably the most famous pop star in all of Turkey. Escaping his very public & hectic life, he spends summers at his house around the corner from the studio.

Ayten is Edip’s wife, and a burgeoning ceramic artist who works during the summers in Erdogan’s studio.

Mediha is a neighbour who has known Erdoğan all his life.

Mercimek is the studio dog.  He gets a bath once a year, when I arrive.

Sadly, Ahmet died last fall.  He was one of the kindest, gentlest men, and the most accomplished potter, I have ever met. 

I have many more friends here. These few have made a special impact.

30 October 2013

Happy Birthday

Yesterday, Turkey celebrated the 90th anniversary of its becoming a republic. A young republic, for an almost unimaginably ancient country. Mustafa Kemel, the Father of Modern Turkey, literally dragged the country into the 20th Century when he took power in 1923. Now revered for this, he is also known to have been ruthless.

Turkish politics are sufficiently complicated to fill numerous volumes.  Suffice to say that, in spite of the present tug-of-war between Islamic, secular, and right-wing Nationalist factions, Turkey is now enjoying relative stability and economic prosperity. The intense fascist oppression following the last military coup in the early 1980’s has lifted considerably under successive democratic governments. It’s a long road (reference the protests & government reaction over the summer in Istanbul & other Turkish cities), but Turkey is striving to improve its global image in areas of human rights, freedom of speech, and justice.
Life in most of Turkey is slower than in much of the rest of the Western world. Turkish culture is a complicated mix of the ancient & the  modern, the religious & the secular. For me, it is the Turkish people’s strength of spirit that makes them so special. And so I am pleased to wish this nation a  Happy Birthday.