There are five basic categories of traditional Turkish handicrafts that have been practiced in Anatolia for nearly a millennium. These are:
· Tiles,and ceramics
· Wood and stone carving
· Calligraphy and book-related arts
Textile-weaving traditionally focuses on the making of carpets, kilims as well as other hangings and coverings with names like cicim, zili, and sumak. Carpet-weaving, the Turks’ gift to the world of art, is quite and ancient handicraft and appears very early in all regions inhabited by nomadic Turkish groups. The oldest known knotted Turkish carpet was discovered in a barrow-tomb in the Altai mountains. Known as the Pazyrik carpet, this piece dates to the 4th century BC.
The Turkish arts of textile-making and carpet-weaving flourished particularly in Anatolia where some of the world’s finest carpets were woven in centers such as Konya, Usak, and Bergama during the Seljuk, Feudal, and Ottoman periods. Choice examples of carpets, kilims, and other exquisite textiles are to be found in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts and in the Vakiflar Museum of Carpets and Kilims (both in Istanbul) as well as in a number of other museums in Turkey.
Fabric-weaving is another textile art that has been practiced and developed in Turkey for centuries. Fabrics also provide a medium for the arts of embroidery, hand-painting, and block-printing, as is eloquently testified by examples in museums and private collections around the country. Two important examples of 13th-century Turkish fabrics are to be found in the Lyon Musees des Tissus and in the treasury of the Siegburg Cathedral. During Ottoman times, cities such as Bursa, Bilecik, and Üsküdar were centers where the world’s finest silks, velvets, cottons, and woolens were woven, in the collection of sultans’ garments in the Topkapi Sarayi Museum. There are rich examples of fabrics woven in Bursa to order for the court according to designs executed by the artists of the court studios.
Tiles, and ceramics make up another group of handicrafts that flourished in Turkish hands in Anatolia and achieved previously unattained levels of perfection. Seljuk tiles produced from the end of the 12th century and throughout the whole of the 13th represent one of the most successful forms of architectural decoration to emerge during the Middle Ages. The Seljuks developed a wide repertoire of applications ranging from glazed brick to mosaic and from colored-glaze square tiles to the star-shaped luster tiles decorated with mythological creatures in Kubadabad Palace. Examples of the wealth of Seljuk architectural tiles are to be found all over the world and there are two excellent collections in the Karatay Medrese Museum in Konya. Among the Ottomans, the 16th century marks the highwater-mark of tile, ceramic, and colored-glass manufacturing. Iznik tiles and pottery from this period achieved new heights in the technique of under-glaze decoration. Outstanding examples made during this century still gladden the heart adorning the monuments of the architect Sinan while the collections of Topkapi Sarayi and the Tiled Kiosk are instructive and illuminating. Concentrated in the two principal centers of Iznik and Kütahya, Ottoman tile and ceramic-making went into a decline in the 17th century. An attempt to revive the industry at Tekfur Sarayi in Istanbul in the 18th century was only temporarily successful.
Wood and stone carving are traditional Turkish handicrafts that have their widest range of applications in architecture, but they have also been practiced as independent arts in their own right. Among the Seljuks, woodworking was developed taking advantage of the materials available in Anatolia and the preferred woods such as walnut, ebony, boxwood, pear, and hornbeam that were durable and would withstand the effects of moisture, temperature, and vermin. The Seljuks were expert in the techniques of carving, inlaying, latticework, and openwork. Ottoman woodworking was a direct heir of that of the Seljuks but to it, they added the techniques of inlaying wood surfaces with mother-of-pearl, ivory, tortoise-shell, and similar materials. The Ottomans were also quite accomplished in the arts of decorating wooden surfaces with painting and lacquer.
Metalworking as a Turkish handicraft immediately brings to mind objects made from precious metals such as gold and silver as well as from more mundane metals such as copper, brass, and iron. During the Seljuk period, Turkish metalworking flourished in the Konya and Artuklu regions in particular. A wide range of formsĞlamps, trays, mortars, candlesticks, braziers, mirrors, door-knockers, and kitchen utensils of every imaginable kindĞwere produced and examples from this period are to be found in museum collections (Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Topkapi Sarayi Museum, Konya Mevlana Museum) and private collections both in Turkey and abroad. Works were made using a variety of techniques such as beating, counter-sinking, lathing, and riveting and were also richly decorated with the techniques of chasing, intaglio, relief, inlaying, openwork, cutting, niello, and filigree. The manufacturing and decorating techniques of the Seljuks continued during the Ottoman period but there was also an expansion in the areas of application with metal being successfully employed for such varied uses ranging from weapons to jewelry and from kitchen utensils to railings and screens. Under the Ottomans, metal-related occupations such as jewelry-making, iron-working, copper-working, casting, and gilding were widespread and many masterpieces were produced.
Calligraphy and book-related arts incorporate a number of different artistic disciplines and thus represent the most comprehensive branch of Turkish traditional handicrafts encompassing as it does the individual arts of calligraphy, miniature-painting, manuscript illumination, marbling, and book-binding. Although calligraphy has its origins in the Arabic language, in the hands of the Turks, it became an advanced and superb art.
Shying away from figurative art out of perceived religious considerations, calligraphy provided Muslim artists everywhere with an opportunity to express themselves in two dimensions. Turkish calligraphers were the inventors of a host of new and original styles that gave them much scope for creativity. The celebrated school of Turkish calligraphers, beginning with Yakutü’l Mustasimi in the 13th century, continued with Seyh Hamdullah of Amasya, Ahmet Karahisari, Dervis Ali, Hafiz Osman, Mustafa Rakim, Mustafa Izzet, Ismail Zühdü, Mahmut Celaledidn, and Sami Efendi. The art still thrives and in the last century alone we have seen such illustrious calligraphers as Tugrakes Hakki, Emin Yazici, Necmeddin Okyay, Kamil Akdik, Hamid Aytaç, Halim Özyazici, and Emin Barin.
The manuscripts whose texts were so lovingly written out by calligraphers were also illustrated with miniatures executed in court studios and workshops. In the skilled hands of artists such as Sinan Bey, Nigari, Nakkas Osman, Hakkas Hasan Pasa, Nakkas Kalender, and Levni, miniature-painting attained an unparalled degree of perfection. Illumination was the third stage in this art and involved embellishing works such as manuscripts, calligraphic plates, documents, and bindings with gold and other-colored decorations. Some of the luminaries of the Turkish school of manuscript illumination were Baba Nakkas, Karamemi, Sah Kulu, and Ali Üsküdari. More recent practitioners of the art include Muhsins Demironat and Rikkat Kunt. The final step in the preparation of a book is its binding and Turkish craftmen produced masterpieces in the art of making tooled-leather bookbindings and also excelled in binding books in a variety of fabrics as well as marbled paper (another area in which Turkish artists have excelled) and sometimes employing gems such as emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and turquoises. Outstanding examples of such works are to be found in the Topkapi Sarayi Museum Library, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, the Süleymaniye Library, and in private collections. Distinguished examples of Turkish calligraphy and manuscript books are also to be found in museum and libraries around the world.
Traditional Turkish handicrafts are included in the academic curricula and programs of a number of institutions in Turkey, of which the University of Mimar Sinan is the foremost, but also in the fine arts faculties of the Marmara and Dokuz Eylül universities. They are also being taught and practiced in private studios and schools and their practical application is still alive and well in many parts of Anatolia.
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Mimar Sinan University
Gönderen KalemGuzeli 13 Şubat 2008
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