Fifteenth Turkey Epistle

Fifteenth Turkey Epistle

Istanbul Design Centre (IDC)

Thursday, July 26th and the first day of my 2 day workshop at the Istanbul Design Centre. The first part of the adventure started with the decision for me to go there alone. Murray had 2 sermons and a presentation to the Church of the Resurrection Parish Council to work on so he needed the time here at home to work.

Come along with me as I wend my way over to the European side of the Bosphorous. The first thing we need to do is cross the street – be careful as the buses, taxis and cars whiz by and the pedestrians crisscross every which way – and watch your step – there are all sorts of things to cause a trip, bump or stumble!

We are now at the ferry – be careful of the steps and ramps – you don’t want to hit a step when you think you have a smooth ramp! The ferry is bobbing about so hang onto the hand of the kind man offering assistance. It is a beautiful day so let’s go up to the top deck to enjoy the view.

As we head out ,look over to the right and you will see the old Hayerpasha train station. This was once part of the Orient Express line built by a German firm in the 1800’s. It was badly damaged during the First World War when it was used as an ammunition depot – and, of course, things exploded. It has been beautifully restored as an historical site but also a ferry dock, an outdoor cafe, and a restaurant. Brides love to come for their pictures. A little further along note the red tiled roofs of the army barracks. Somewhere near them is the site of the hospital where Florence Nightingale nursed the wounded from the Crimean War.

The teaman is coming so we will have a glass of cay and enjoy the rest of our journey. The sea is very calm – except for the wakes of all the ferries and the sun makes the water glisten. The gulls are swooping with abandon and their wings make breathtaking arcs against the blue sky.

Now we are approaching land – listen carefully to the announcement. Are we stopping at Karikoy or Eminonu? We need Eminonu so we mustn’t make a mistake – altho, if we do get off at the wrong port we would only need to walk over the Galata Bridge ( 15 minute walk). A Sultan princess had this bridge built for the poor of Istanbul to make their journey from one side of the Golden Horn to the other much easier.

Whew! We are at Eminonu – and there is the New Mosque which is right next to the Spice Bazaar. Using the underpass, we go by some guys selling cute little spinning tops, and come out across from the tramway. Now we need to be mindful of taking the tramway in the right direction. Fortunately, it is early and there are few people so it is easy to see where we are going. The tramway is very new, comfortable and air conditioned. Aboard, a kind man offers me his seat – is it my new blond looks? Three stops later and we arrive at the Sultanhamet district.
This is the centre of the original heart of Constantinople – the historical hub.

We will now walk the rest of the way to the IDC. First we pass the ruins of Constantine’s original palace, down a few steps and come out to old Hippodrome. To our left is Hagia Sofia, over and beyond to the right is the Blue Mosque. We will walk along the old Hippodrome site passing the Egyptian obelisk ( approximately 1500 BC), the Serpentine column and the Colossus. However, we don’t have time today to stop because we must hurry to a narrow street towards the right. Two more blocks and we turn right – the street is very steep so be careful! To our left are the ruins of an ancient church, and, the entrance to the Mosque of Sokollu Mehmet Pasha (1571 AD). But, to our right is the entrance to the Istanbul Design Centre – located in an ancient Dervish Lodge.

Zeynap Undar, the student we met on our first visit, is there to greet me and offers a seat at a table in the atrium and a glass of cay. It is early so the time to relax and get my bearings is very welcome.

At 10:30 we enter the small classroom – about 12’ x 18’ with places for 5 students. For the next 2 days this is where 8 people will work. There are 5 students, one instructor, Zeynap the student helper and Erika. Erika is the Director for Development and has been assigned to me as my interpreter for the entire 2 days. She is an absolute delight. Originally from one of the old Soviet Union satellite countries, she went to high school in the States and had lived in Regina!!! Regina – imagine.

It is only a little intimidating as the other students come in and begin to unpack their bags. I didn’t know we had to have our own equipment – yikes. But, I am assured that I am not to worry because they will supply all that I need. Two of the students have been studying at the Centre all year, one is studying at another institution and is here to learn enamelling. She is a ceramist but her jewellery designs have become so good she is beginning to sell them. The fourth student owns a jewellery design shop along with her husband. They specialize in custom designs using gold and precious stones. Then there’s me –

Before long we are given small squares of copper to scour with brillo pads, files of all sorts, sandpaper and scouring sponges. The copper has to be very smooth and clean before we can apply the enamel dust. Once the copper squares are clean and ready for enamelling, all the windows and doors are closed, the AC is turned off, we put on masks and the two annealing ovens are turned on – 800 C – and it is blazing hot outside! The dust is very fine so there cannot be any air movement while we are using it and we must be careful not to breathe it in. Eight hot bodies, two extremely hot ovens – and intense concentration – imagine!!! But what a lot of fun. A couple of the students could speak some English and were very kind to me. Watching the others gave me all sorts of ideas and we tended to stimulate the creative juices of one another.

The first day we made simple squares to be used as earrings or small pendants but the second day we worked on the full squares. We were encouraged to try a variety of techniques so I cut out a tulip, then used glass beads on a circular disc, and finally, cut out a stencil to make a seagull flying over the Bosphorous!

Before I left, Fatma, our incredible instructor, attached various chains and cords to my pieces so I left with 5 usable necklaces. She is a woman of great generosity. While working on the chains, etc., she brought out 2 red merino glass tulips and told me to choose one – and then proceeded to make it into a necklace.

This was an unforgettable experience – I am humbled by the kindness of all the people at this institution and will be eternally grateful for the privilege of being part of them.



2 thoughts on “Fifteenth Turkey Epistle

  1. Eleanor Cawthorne

    Beautiful creations Diana!
    I’m looking forward to seeing you wearing some of them.
    You were so brave to make that journey to the Design Centre all by yourself…in a strange land but so much history and beauty!
    Looking forward to seeing you and Murray back home in Canada. I guess it won’t be long now…
    God bless and keep you,

  2. northumberlandviews

    We love your blogs. I guess you are getting ready for Italy now. Let us know how Venice turned out. I am assuming you will keep the blog going. Did you ever manage to leave Istanbul for any other places in Turkey other than the Princes’ Islands? It’s such a huge country with so much to see.


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