Text and Photographs by Helga Berry
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The Bosphorus flowing through Istanbul separates Europe from Asia. With this true meeting of East and West, Turkey’s history and culture are fascinating. Breathtaking architectural sights, incredible treasures in museums, and textiles that made one’s heart beat faster were seen in September during the 13th European Textile Network (ETN) conference.
Keynote speaker Jack Lenor Larson opened the biennial conference in Izmir before 137 participants from 29 countries. Beatrijs Sterk, Secretary General of ETN in Germany, and Suhandan Özay Demirkan, Professor and Head of Textile, Fashion and Accessories at the University Faculty of Fine Arts in Izmir, with the support of colleagues, presented a well-organized program of lectures and slide shows under the topic “Visions in Textiles—From Tradition to Textile Art/Design of Tomorrow.” The lectures on the Turkish heritage of rich, mostly functional textiles were inspiring, and the contemporary Turkish designs for garments, shoes, and jewelry were eye-openers. The juried exhibition in conjunction with the conference at the Izmir State Art and Sculpture Museum was a highlight; diverse works by 129 artists from 33 countries (9 from the United States) were included. With sizable sponsorships, the whole city seemed to support this conference; one lunch was even served at police headquarters!
Outside the Bursa City Museum. Facing the camera are Esat Uluumay, Jack Lenor Larson, Suhandan Özay Demirkan, and an attendee, curator Wendy Van Deusen.
Installation view of the Visions in Textiles exhibition. Shown are works by
Beatrix Ikonomu of Austria (colorful ikat panel), Masao Yoshimura of Japan
(white vessels on sand), Susana Nielson of Denmark (black and white hanging), and Virjinija Kirveliene of Lithuania (tapestry).
In the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul, a restored carpet.
Two buses drove more than 80 chatty artists to museums, sights, workshops, bazaars, and shops. In Bursa, Esat Uluumay, the founder of the Anatolian Folklore Foundation, has collected costumes—from opulent, elegant brocades of the Ottoman Empire to colorful, richly embellished tribal garments—and jewelry for forty years; the new Bursa City Museum displayed 70 costumes and 350 pieces of jewelry from Anatolia and Rumelia. In Istanbul, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts houses a huge and incredible carpet collection. The Topkapi Museum’s costumes and artifacts, not to forget the jewels, are incredible. In the Grand Bazaar and in other sections of the city, there are amazing finds: antique textiles and carpets and everything imaginable.
In the Bursa City Museum, an embroidered jacket from
A restored fragment of Ottoman brocade from the collection of Gönül Paksoy.
Gönül Paksoy’s two stores left artwear enthusiasts speechless. In her spotless white kitchen, she overdyes pieces from her antique textile collection with the precision of a chemist. She creates unique, subtle-colored garments, harmoniously mixing the old and the new textiles. She also designs accessories and jewelry to complement her garments. She makes whimsical fantasy rag dolls—and the labels on the bottles of wine she produces feature her jacket creations. (This must be a first: an exquisite textile garment on the label of a wine bottle!)
A bazaar shop.
Woven Legends Restoration in Izmir. At this organization, men mostly restore old carpets and kilims; women generally weave new ones.
Felt carpets for sale in a dusty, old workshop.
Spool-winding machine in a silk factory in Ödemis.
If you plan a trip to Turkey, allow lots of time to appreciate the long and diverse heritage, bold design, varied texture, invigorating colors, dazzling patterns, calligraphy, technical complexity, and glitz of the textiles. In the meantime, museum visitors in the United States can get a glimpse of textiles from Turkey at the exhibition Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey, on display through January 22 at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. The show has an online component at www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/current/StyleStatus.htm.
The ruins of the Celsus Library in Ephesus.
Balcony and roof of an old Konagi in Birgi. A Konagi is a home in which rooms are rented out, like a bed and breakfast.
Tiles inside the Green Mosque in Bursa.
Spice Market in Bursa.
Chocolate booth in the Tünel-Taksim area, Istanbul.
The next ETN conference is planned for 2007 in the London area. For more information about the European Textile Network, visit www.etn-net.org.
About the Author
Helga Berry (www.fibercomposition.com) is a fiber artist and writer who lives in Anchorage, Alaska.
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