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Back from Turkey: Turkish Handcrafts

June 13, 2012

Travels in Turkey produced interesting insight into Turkish and Middle Eastern handcrafts.  Our travels took us through the Western part of Anatolia (Asian side of Turkey) and Istanbul.  We found the country to be beautiful, clean, and safe. One of the main handcraft highlights was found in Bursa, Turkey.  Bursa, located at the end of the Silk Road, is known for silk scarves.  We indeed traveled from one store to the next observing and inquiring,  but ultimately found too many knock offs from China, and too few handmade scarves.  Fortunately, we located Mr Sinasi Çelikkol who operates Karagöz Antiques, known for their collection of traditional Turkish Shadow Puppets and a main driver in their preservation. Turkish Shadow Puppets are made by craftsman in Bursa using camel or ox hide and natural dyes.  Shadow Theatre, originating on the Island of Java, is done by casting the shadows of two-dimensional figures on a white screen.  In Turkey, Kargöz and Hacivat are the two main characters.  Kargöz is illiterate and straight forward, while Hacivat educated and poetical.  Shadow Theatre was popular during the Ottoman Empire.  We selected four beautiful frame shadow puppets. We also traveled to Buldan, Turkey, which is known for making traditional Turkish pestemals (pronounced pesh-te-mal) on handlooms.  Here we found several small producer groups making and selling these traditional Turkish bath towels.  These towels are flat-woven with hand-tied fringe, typically made of Turkish cotton, linen, or even bamboo. They are light weight, thin, and extremely absorbent. They are larger than US towels but very compact and perfect for traveling, the gym, or the beach.  They dry very quickly. We also returned with many products made with a Turkish textile technique called, Cicim.  Most of these we found in either Fethiye or Kaş.  Textiles made using this technique are often mistaken for needle work on a base weave but in fact are done on a loom by carrying colored design wefts around a varying number of warps. As in all other types of weaving, all designs on cicim have different meanings. The rectangular panels are traditionally used by tribal people in many different ways, for example as floor spreads to seat guests, tent hangings, or wall covers. We found beautiful mother of pearl inlay all over Turkey.  This craft was practiced during the Ottoman period to make art and furniture.  Unfortunately for us, the production of this craft is only being done in the Gaziantep region in Eastern Turkey.  Eastern Turkey is also known for metalwork and weavings.  Lastly, we are happy to announce that Alternatives is the proud new owner of its own Nazar Boncugu or Evil Eye bead like nearly all other Turkish businesses.  As many know, this bead will protect us from all negative powers and conscious or unconscious doses of envy and resentment.



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