So, WHAT'S Katie up to???

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tales from Turkey, #5

Before I continue the clay-related part of my blog, I'll give a bit of a travel update. I am leaving Turkey for Canada in a couple of days, and can easily continue with the clay stories when I'm back home.  Besides, I retrieved some outstanding pieces from the still-400-degree C kiln (yes, that's super hot!!!!) moments before leaving Avanos for the airport, and didn't have time to photograph them before wrapping them in an old bath-towel for their journey.

I arrived last night in Istanbul, to a sultry but breezy evening of about 23 degrees.  Sultanahmet Camii (The Blue Mosque) glowed pleasantly in the darkness. I thought I was fortunate being given a room with a bath for the same price as one without, though I knew they would not do that if someone hadn't erred and overbooked the hotel...... Fortunate it seemed, until I realized my only window opens onto the hallway, and not onto the street, so I have virtually no ventilation.  No matter: I have a nice fan.

Neither had I counted on the morning noise. And, since the first flights out of Istanbul leave at 6 a.m., the 'morning' starts at about 2:00! The unlocking & locking & banging of doors, thumping of heavy baggage on the marble stairs, and loud voices in English, German, and French (obviously oblivious to the echo-factor in the tiled hallways), permeated my fitful sleep. And, beginning at 7:50, the endless stomping of hiking-boot clad feet on the uncarpeted stairs up to the breakfast room two floors above. At 8:30 I finally gave in and joined the breakfast crowd.

After my pleasant late-night sit on the rooftop watching light little clouds float by the moon, imagine my stunned surprise to see buckets of rain pelting the windows, blown everywhere by the howling wind!  Those light little clouds have grown into one huge one, and socked themselves in over the city so tightly that the Sea of Marmara, about half a kilometre away, is completely invisible. Grrrr!! Not a pleasant backdrop for a day of visiting the Istiklal shopping street and sipping tea with my friend Seda. The hotel has umbrellas available; but with the 30 naut 'breeze', I'm not sure how much good an umbrella will do.  Now, wistfully, I remember that $2 bargain-store plastic poncho nestled in my drawer of 'travel stuff' back in Gibsons.  Another Grrrr!

With the Kapali Çarsi (The Grand Bazaar, but literally translated as "Closed-in Market") being kapali (closed) on Sundays (which today is),  I guess I'm off to brave the elements across the Golden Horn to visit my friend.  It's not cold, so the wet is more of an issue than the chill.  My biggest decision appears to be whether to take the practical approach my mother would have advised, and wear my sensible sneakers to keep my feet (sort of) dry, or give in to the rain and bathe my tootsies in the Istanbul street rains wearing my water-happy flip flops.  Or maybe the decision is, "Do I hoof it? or pay for a taxi?.......

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tales from Turkey, #4

My gosh, I've been awfully remiss in keeping my blog of late! Not a good way to keep followers interested! I promised some pottery-type photos......

Avanos has been the centre of clay production in Cappadocia for literally thousands of years.  The wheat farmers to the south and east stored grain in huge pots made here.  Vintners to the south used Avanos (historically known as Evranos, and various other names) vessels for their wine. Avanos güveç (Turkish stew) pots are renouned for their durability. The commercial clay and pottery production zone is in the 'sanay', or industrial area. We visited the Mumtaz clay production workshop, and next to it the industrial site of Chez Hakan, a local pottery shop that exports garden pots & decorative pieces all over the world. (apologies for the graininess of these pics, but the air was pretty dusty.)
 The clay arrives at the workshop as dry chunks dug from the hillsides above the Kizilirmak (the Red River, for obvious reasons), is crushed by hand, seived to remove stones, and then soaked in water in huge stone tubs to form a disgusting gooey sludge.  After the clay has soaked up enough water, it is pushed through the machine at the left which presses out the lumps. The de-lumping and mixing used to be done by hand (or rather by foot), but the pug-mill makes the process much faster, not to mention more appealing.
Final clay preparation is always by hand.  Getting the right consistency is critical to making good pots.
And likely the best living potter in Avanos at present (though his arthritis keeps him from working much) is 86 year old Ahmet.  This piece will form the bottom third of a huge storage pot.  Each remaining part will be added on after the part below it has been allowed to harden for a day or so; and the resulting pot will be about 5 feet tall.
 Görkan, co-owner of this workshop, shows off the far less ambitious pots that are destined for the southern US, likely for use as garden ornamentation.
 Regardless of its size or function, each pot must be trimmed and generally cleaned up before it is ready to be fired.
 Avanos industrial kilns are wood-fired, and hold massive amounts of pots. The pots in this pic are still hot from firing; and they are but the bottom layer of a load that was stacked all the way to the ceiling of the kiln.
Back at the pottery shop, Hakan spends evening hours trimming, burnishing, and putting pierced designs on small pieces that will then go back to the sanay to be fired. And that's after he's worked in the shop all day! The shop is open 365 days a year, all day & into the evening; and Hakan is there every day. When there are no customers, he's decorating pots. It's difficult to make a good living as a pottery shop in Avanos.  But, after years of saving and hard work, the addition of their large Sanay workshop and expansion into American and European markets has made Hakan and his brother Görkan one of the more successful families carrying on this thousands-years' old tradition in the cradle of civilization.