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HANDICRAFTS AND GIFTWARE
Representing a Unique Cultural Heritage…
Turkey has inherited a rich culture from the past. The Central Anatolian plateau is
considered one of the cradles of civilization. Here the Hattis, Hittites, Phrygians, Galatians,
Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans established their rule. For ten millennia of
history, the people of Anatolia have reflected these cultures in their art.
Decorative arts in the life of the Turks date back to the 1st Century B.C., however the most
wonderful examples of decorative art were produced during the Seljuk and Ottoman
Turkish governmental bodies such as, DÖSİMM of The Ministry of Culture and Tourism,
(Traditional Turkish Handicrafts Foundation), a non-governmental organization and many
other institutions have been trying to preserve and develop Turkish handicrafts.
At present, Turkish craftsmen have been encouraged by the above mentioned authorities
to produce new types of products having traditional characteristics. Meanwhile, more and
more pieces of modern-style also have been designed and produced to fit the
requirements of contemporary life styles.
From World-Famous Iznik Tiles to Contemporary Designs…
Tile making was the most distinctive element of the Seljuk and Ottoman arts used in
interior and exterior architecture. İznik (earlier called Nicaea), Kütahya and Çanakkale
(Dardanel) were the three most important centers for tile and ceramics production.
Iznik developed into a prominent ceramics center during the 15th and 16th Centuries.
Ceramics made of white paste and decorated with blue patterns on white surfaces with
floral and leaf patterns, especially tulips were the preferred tile motifs. Even today, Turkish
ceramics in İznik style are world famous.
New ceramic styles emerged in Kütahya and Çanakkale during the 15th and 17th centuries,
respectively, and are known by the names of their region. With their distinctive styles, color
characteristics, patterns and forms, they provide fine examples of the arts of ceramic-ware
and tiles during the Ottoman period.
At present, both the traditional types of ceramics and modern pieces are produced in
Turkey. Almost all of the large companies are in Kütahya and İstanbul regions.
In addition, there are also various small-scale firms and hundreds of small workshops in
the industry, most of which were established in Kütahya.
A Wide Range of Products From Unique Examples of Historical Value to Functional,
The Turkish art of glass making began in the Seljuk period and developed rapidly during
the Ottoman Empire. The center of glass production was Istanbul at that time.
Turkish hand-made glassware has a good reputation abroad and best reflects Turkish art.
Today, the number of glass products reaches thousands of items including hand-made
and machine-made products.
There is a special kind of glass, called “Cesm-i Bülbül” (the eye of the nightingale) which is
an art entirely Turkish. This famous design, distinguished by swirls of blue and white lines
in clear glass, is mostly used on decanters, vases, flasks and candy boxes.
There is another very special kind of glass, called “Beykoz” which takes its name from the
place and the workshop where it was originally produced at the end of the 18th century.
Historically, the forms and decorations of Beykoz glassware were meticulously created
and were the most outstanding glassware of their time. They were all decorated by using
24 carat gold on colorless or colored and opal glass.
There is another traditional glassware called a “blue eye bead”, an authentic amulet
consisting of blue, white and yellow, the eye against the evil eye. Its uniqueness among
other blue beads in the world lies in its concentric color combination resembling an eye.
Currently, reproductions of unique examples from the historic art of Turkish glass making,
in addition to a very wide range of modern glass items are produced. “Turkiye Sise ve
Cam Fab. A.S” is a group of companies in the sector, which ranks third in the world and
second in Europe in the production of glass tableware and ornaments. There are also
various small-scale firms and work-shops in the sector.
Hand Woven Clothes and Fabrics, Carpets and Rugs, Lace, Embroidered and
Quilted Fabrics and Needlework. All of Exquisite Beauty…
Traditional Turkish textile based handicrafts were inspired by a rich source molded and
shaped by numerous cultures succeeding each other for thousands of years.
Anatolian carpets and rugs, with their colors, motifs, patterns and superior quality, have a
universal reputation and are cherished for hundreds of years.
Traditional Turkish carpet weaving with its well-known Turkish knot has been preserved
with remarkable purity, faithfully keeping the original designs and color combinations of
each region of production. Each production area gives its name to the carpet where it is
produced, which is usually associated with a particular design and color scheme. Among
the best known production provinces are “Hereke, “Istanbul”, “Kayseri”, “Yahyalı”,
“Karaman”, “Sivas” and “Isparta”.
Turkish rugs generally use wool or silk as the material. Amongst various kinds of Turkish
rugs, “Kilim”, “Cicim”, “Zili” and “Kolan” can be listed here.
Lace, which is commonly used in many textile applications, especially in home textiles, is
originally a Turkish handicraft. It is an embroidery art reaching back to the mid-1500s and
crowned by the labor of Turkish women. It is an outstanding handicraft with its traditional
taste and motifs in different colors and lines which are now reflected in modern home decoration.
Traditional fabrics used both in clothes and home textiles, especially those of Denizli and
Kastamonu provinces like “Buldan fabric”, “Selalmaz cemberi” and “Azdavay cemberi” are
Handicrafts of Hand-Beaten Copper, Brass, Silver and Bronze Reflecting Both the
Past and the Present…
During the Bronze Age, inhabitants of Anatolia managed to obtain bronze with tin and
using this alloy produced receptacles and ornamental objects. They also produced copper,
gold and silver objects for religious or daily purposes using the techniques of forging and
All the civilizations which have inhabited Anatolia added their styles and values in working
metals which are still reflected in the articles of our day.
Copper plates, bowls and trays for famous Turkish food, coffee sets, kettles, buckets,
narghiles (water pipes) which are water-filtered tobacco smoking equipment are examples
of hand-beaten copper articles.
Animal figurines, coffee and spice mills, shoe shiners’ boxes, mortars etc. made of brass;
small statuettes, figurines, letter openers, boxes, key rings, lighter cases, mirror frames,
bowls and trays made of silver; bells, mortars, small statuettes etc. are numerous
examples of metal handicrafts.
HANDICRAFTS OF GEMSTONES AND MINERALS
Meerschaum, Black Amber, Marble and More…
Due to the variability and richness of its geological structure, working with gemstones has
been carried out in Anatolia since prehistoric times.
The “Oltu stone” which is known as “Black amber” extracted from the district of Oltu in
Erzurum is used in making rosaries, cigarette holders and jewellery generally in
combination with silver. Oltu stone is found only in Turkey, in the above mentioned district.
Underground, it is soft in its fossil form. When it comes in contact with air after it is
extracted, it hardens. This stone discharges the static electricity in the human body and in
that way it is somewhat of a remedy for stress. Oltu stone stays shiny as long as it is used
and it does not react with human sweat and leaves no traces on the skin.
The finest quality of meerschaum reserves exist in Turkey. Meerschaum is not a type of
earth or mineral, but is composed of decaying mollusks, which are subject to chemical
changes. Although meerschaum exists in various parts of Turkey, the best quality is
excavated in Eskisehir. Various products, such as cigarette holders, pipes, ash-trays,
candle holders, vases, boxes, lamp-stands, necklaces, earrings and bracelets are made of
meerschaum. Meerschaum cigarette holders and pipes have the property of absorbing the
nicotine in tobacco to some extent.
Marble, and especially onyx, objects such as chests, boxes, fruit stands, bowls, ash-trays,
vases, stationary items are produced widely since marble sources exist in ample amounts
The other current “Gemological” products of Turkey are chalcedony found in the vicinity of
Eskisehir, agate found in the vicinity of Ankara, chrysoprase of Balikesir and the opals of
Kutahya. Today, as a popular hobby item, gemstones have assumed decorative meanings
beyond their use in jewellery.
Still Creating Lovely Examples of Traditional Turkish Handicrafts…
Leather and leather working is a deep rooted branch of art in Turkey. Turks have used
leather since early times and leather has played a prominent role in their clothing and daily life.
Leather handbags, purses and belts, desk sets, boxes, rawhide shoes, chess-boards,
photo frames, address books, lighter cases, key rings, similar products and many more are
widely produced in Turkey.
Leather and “Kilim”, a sort of Turkish rug are often used together in making the articles
such as hand-bags, travel bags, purses, note-book cases, vests etc. which are well-known
samples of Turkish handicrafts.
Surviving Down to Our Age from the Distant Past…
Wood carving has a profound place in Ottoman civil architecture, the best examples of
which are found in the wooden mosques of that time.
The central boss on ceilings, the paddle boxes on fireplaces, cupboard wings and doors
found in houses are decorated with the finest, lace-like carvings.
The carved wood was enriched by mother of pearl, ivory, gold, silver, precious stones,
bone and tortoise shell inlays in the early Ottoman art of wood carving.
The art of wood carving in Anatolia is greatly influenced by the arts applied on stone,
leather, ceramics and embroidery and uses similar motifs.
Small tables, tables, boxes, reading stools, wall shelves inlaid with mother of pearl,
walking sticks, mirror frames photo frames, jewellery boxes with gold gilt decoration,
trousseau chests with metal ornaments, backgammon sets, objects of carved wood,
musical instruments like small violins, horns and lutes are numerous examples of wood
articles currently made in Turkey.
Reflecting a Rich Cultural Heritage Combined With Contemporary Designs…
Turkey has a long history of silver craftsmanship including classical products of bygone
days and current silver products which are very popular export items.
The art of gold and silver jewellery has an important place in traditional Turkish metal
working. According to the findings being evaluated from archeological excavations, the art
of telkari has been an old tradition in Turkey since the 15th century.
Telkari handcraftsmanship is a jewellery decoration. It is also named “vav working”. Telkari
which has a special place in traditional handicrafts is a symbol of the decoration concept of
Turkish culture, excellence and elegance.
Mardin-Midyat, Ankara-Beypazarı and Trabzon are the most important centers for the
Telkari handcrafted production in Turkey.
Today, Turkish silver jewellery manufacturers are creating modern and decorative pieces
of silver art by using a combination of ancient and modern technologies, ancient and
contemporary designs with high quality finishing.
The total Turkish handicraft and giftware exports totaled US $ 335.3 million in 2011. Handmade
carpets had the largest share in exports. Major export markets were the USA, Japan
and France. The next largest product group in the exports was silver jewelry.
Turkish silver jewellery sector has increased its exports significantly in the past ten years.
Major destinations were the USA, Germany and the UAE in 2011.
There are some 4 major trade fairs organized yearly in the sector.
“Bijoux Expo Turkiye”
“SOUVEEXPO-Souvenir Expo Turkey”
“PROMOTURK- International Promotional Products Exhibition”
“ZUCHEX- International Ideal Home Houseware, Glassware, Decorative Products
and Dowry Fair” all held in Istanbul in September every year.
Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Culture and Tourism
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