Crafts always have a story to tell (Turkey)

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The first parcels are ready to go. Like a legion of little messengers they travel now by land and air to take a sample of crafts from Turkey to ten different destinations. It’s an experiment that started three months ago with our travels east. It’s a way to draw maps with handmade crafts instead of roads and paths or the usual photos of touristic destinations.

Dressed for winter travels copy
Snail Trails dressed up for winter travels

If you want to meet the artisans or know what these parcels contain, here  is a virtual version of what Snail Trails is about. Your screen will not let you touch the clay, it won’t allow you to count the knots of silk lace, nor to feel the slight cold of glass or brass. But it may let you imagine what this is all about. And who knows…maybe you will get to meet the makers on your next travel!

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1. The flowers of the Silk Route

Gul learnt the art of Anatolian silk needlework before she could even read or write.  What she creates are contemporary examples of “Iğne oyası”, a traditional Turkish craft that comes from the time of the silk routes of central Anatolia and that passed from generation to generation into Gul’s hands. They say that this work is made of silk and nature, as one can find hundreds of flower species adorning the scarfs of the local ladies.  We met Gul at a fundraising market in Ankara, supporting an organisation that works in Turkey for women’s equality. She told us the story with the help of an improvised translator, but if you are curious, you can read much more about this old craft here.

Gul in Etsy

Gul's Silk Needlework

2. The earth becomes craft in Cappadocia

Everything sleeps at Sadik’s workshop. It is mid December and Göreme is quietly waiting under the snow. Waiting for the few tourists that dare adventuring into the cold lands of  winter Cappadocia. Waiting for the new season that warms up the hands of the artisan at work. Sadik show us his work-place and clay shop, where piles of cups are combined with artifacts of all colours and shapes.  Happy to have found at least one maker in this tourist-driven part of Anatolia, we load our backpacks with cups and plates crafted from the same soil that we step on as we walk the valleys of Cappadocia.

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3. Glass that comes to life by the fire of Chimera

Erol was patiently melting glass bottles into peace signs when we met him on our way out of Cirali.  His family craft is glass work, and he has been crystallizing nature in this way since he can remember, so his workshop is piled up with leaves and flowers, with birds, turtles and impossible creatures that may resemble the Chimera hidden underneath the earth 5 km away from his little shop.  Warmed up by the this old fire, his hands make up figures with the same ease as the smoke curls up from his cigarette, and in between one work and the next he pours some tea into the glasses of his friends that sit around for a chat.

ST Cirali_Erol Usla

4. Recycling ancient flying carpets

The streets inside and around the castle of Ankara resemble more a small town of the east than the capital city this fortress sits on. And small shops, cafes and workshops adorn the sidewalks of its narrow corridors. In one of its corners Ayse transforms old carpets into a hundred different shapes, sewing and re-sewing in a corner of the room. Her wood-burner keeps her and the unmissable Turkish double-teapot warm. And we spend a good hour swimming among the old fabrics un-decisively trying to choose our favourite patterns in this sea of colours.

Hisar Bazaar. Ankara Kalesi

ST Ankara_Ayse

5. Design for life in Fetiyeh

Hazan is a Designer. A blue lock of hair makes it apparent, the furniture in her shop makes it obvious, her hand-made creations do not let room for doubt.  An industrial designer with a passion for jewelry that worked for years for gold design companies and bored of improvising on the little room left by market fashion, took her dream in her own hands and opened her blue space in Fetiyeh. If you make your way to this relaxed corner of Turkey, maybe on your way to walking the Lykian way, please say hi and send a hug from us to Hazan that will be sitting with a cup of tea by the door of Azul.

Azul Silver Accessories. 37 Sokak, Fetiyeh (Turkey).

ST Fetiyeh Hazan Kara copy

6. Looking for the sound of copper in Erzurum

We walk the frozen streets of Erzurum for hours, being directed here and there towards the elusive “copper street”. Where we find Sinan hiding from the cold in the back-room of his workshop. We could have heard him banging on copper plates if we had come a one season earlier, but it’s too cold now for the hands of the craftsman (-16º or so!), so he spends the winter fixing old teapots, chandeliers and anything he is brought far away from the front door. We share with Sinan some tea, a few words and many gestures while we chose our treasures from his shop and promise to come back with this photo to adorn his wall, the way that his copper cups adorn the fountains of this city.

ST Erzurum_Sinan Elnar

Gathering crafts was part of our joyful adventures around Turkey, and the stories of the makers, their spaces and their crafts were among the beautiful things that we have gathered on our wanderings about.  New words like ‘bakır’ or ‘çıçek’ enlarge our little vocabulary thanks to them and we know by now that over here tea has different sort of value and can even be paid with plastic coins.

SnailTrails from Fethiye. Hazan Kara's jewellery.
SnailTrails from Fethiye. Hazan Kara’s jewellery and tea.

As this is a “handmade project” the parcels are only equal in their disparity, adorned here and there by our amateur hands, and given a final touch by the grumpy men at the post-office that stamped the omnipresent face of Ataturk in every available gap. We just hope they get safely to your homes.

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Marta – final touches in Erzurum
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Boris – or a “Roving Santa”
Happy travels!
Happy travels!



This post is part of the series Snail Trails – Handmade in Asia – a roving initiative to document, collect and share crafts from the places we pass by and the artisans we meet on our way East. Because there is a life behind the souvenirs and we are curious to see what it looks like. If you also want to know more click here for artisan’s and craft stories. 

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Boris, Marta and Burma roam the world at a speed of a snail. Two humans and one cat that found their way to India overland.

2 Responses

  1. Henry
    | Reply

    You both are a beautiful inspiration. I hope to emulate your experiences and find some originality in my own. the images you’ve captured and the stories are amazing. one thing that is leaving me slightly wanting, where is the story of how you came to meet each other! would be really interesting to hear especially knowing the things you’ve achieved together. I hope I bump into you both on my travels one day!

    best of luck with everything in your futures x

    • Roving Snails
      | Reply

      Thanks, Henry!

      We are so glad you like the stories!
      We have probably told to people we meet along the way of how me met in Sofia, four years ago, that totally forgot somebody still may want to know :) Let’s see if Boris is in a romantic mood to tell it now.

      Thanks for reading and comenting.
      And all the best to you too!

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