A Half Day Walk For Arts & Crafts

A couple of years ago I was talking to my friend Zafer Sari, the renowned sculpture of the controversial public monument called “LOVE” and I asked him to help me to design a half/full day of a walking tour for arts and crafts in İstanbul. I was getting more and more referrals from our clients who wanted to experience things out of the ordinary. Many asked for opportunities to get involved with arts. As a matter of fact, several families with children spent half a day a sculpture workshop and learned how to make simple statues with clay.

Zafer suggested to visit some of his artist friends in Çukurcuma and improvise and walk into the workshops of some others. The idea sounded great because Çukurcuma is a part of Beyoğlu area, downhill from İstiklal Caddesi (Street) towards Karaköy Harbor on the Bosphorus and famous for antique stores, antique auctions, and Museum Of Innocence of Nobel prize winner Turkish author Orhan Pamuk.

We met Mete Cem Kuzu at his workshop close to Boğazkesen Street. He crafts mahogany, walnut, and ebony into electro guitars. This is how Mete describes his philosophy: "Novacorda is supporting afforestation and makes sure that we do not waste wood. Even if wood may have knot-holes we try to find a way to use those pieces. You cannot imagine what beautiful results we are getting out of this."

Zeynep Güldoğdu works in an apartment only 300 meters from Mete's workshop. She is a sculpture and painting and handwork teacher. She had solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions. Our guests with children have loved to spend time with her. 

I think Haydanhuya is one of my favorites during this walk. Gökhan is a very refined, sophisticated young man who came up with the idea of making wallets, backpacks, and tablet cases made out of leather and walnut and oak. If I haven't seen and touched them I would not assume how elegant and smooth they were. Gökhan has a tiny cafe inside so we took a break to have a shot of espresso.

We kept walking from one cafe to another and from one antique shop to another art gallery. We even saw John Lennon looking at us from a wall. Like anywhere else in Turkey, one doesn't starve in Çukurcuma area. 

We meet the most interesting person in the whole area right next to the Çukurcuma Auction House. Cavit Şen is an artist who performs and teaches dozens of traditional arts including inlaid wood, marbling, calligraphy, wood painting, stain glass, wood carving, patchworking, tile making, gilding, etc. He is a gem. Cavit has many stories to tell, so we accepted his offer for a cup of tea and enjoyed our second rest with him. 

I couldn't resist visiting this woodcarver when I saw the "semazen" (whirling dervish) carved into a piece of wood and standing between his tools. Wood carving is one of the ancient arts and highly appreciated in Turkey for decoration. The wood of ebony, walnut, apple, pear, cedar, boxwood, rose, pine, etc has been carved into art by many generations. Orhan was very friendly and invited us inside to show us the tools and wood he was using and yes we had another cup of tea. It didn't take too long to figure out that Orhan was a practicing dervish, which explains his friendly and zen state of mind.

I loved what Zeynep Turuthan was doing in her shop called Fan Fin Fon. Fan Fin Fon is like the castle of vintage. She told us that she has clients internationally and ask for custom made shoes and some of them are for plays on stage and movies. The smell of leather and the diversity and creativity of the models captures you instantly. Fan Fin Fon is very close to Greek Consulate and Galatasaray Turkish Bath.

We finished our walk at İstiklal Caddesi, the heart of the entertainment in Beyoğlu area. We are ready to go to a roof bar for drinks on one of the historic buildings in this area and chill. We didn't walk a long distance but we walk several hours and the night is young.

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