So, WHAT'S Katie up to???

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.

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