Winter Days in Istanbul

Upon my return to Istanbul, I was greeted by a blast of cold moving in from Siberia and settling a layer of fresh snow in the city.  I was half expecting to find solace from the cold as I had just departed from the -33 degree Wyoming winter, and the mild Istanbul weather seemed like a promising relief.  I was not met with the warm sun but I was however met with love, friends, hot çay and a few adventurous days of sketching in the snow.

Emilie, a fellow sketcher, jewelry maker, coffee drinker and just great friend has been joining me since summer on drawing dates around the city.  You can read about her experiences and see her work on her blog.  Since Istanbul nearly shuts down at the sight of snow, Emilie was off work for 3 days, and we jumped at the chance to explore some new sketching spots.

Durring the entire week we drew huddled up in the Haydarpaşa Train Station with kitties keeping us warm on our laps, sat on the cold marble in Hagia Sophia, and sketched in warm hipster coffee shops with our friend Melody who is also joining us these days.  We had chance encounters, ate in newly found restaurants, planned new projects and filled up our sketchbooks.  It was as if we had extended our holidays, and stepped into a space where we could settle back into the city to rediscover all over again, what made us fall in love with it in the first place.

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Photo Credit: Emilie Varlet

 

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Photo Credit: Emilie Varlet

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My sketchbook in Haydarpasa Train Station

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My sketchbook in Gezi Park

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My drawing of Emilie in Karakoy

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Emilie’s drawing of me in Karakoy

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Drawing Melody and Emilie and and myself in the mirror.

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Emilie’s drawing of me

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Emilie’s drawing of Karabatak Cafe in Karakoy

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Ayder

We were told that Ayder is a must see destination on the Black Sea, and though this small village is entirely touristic, we were overwhelmed with the beauty of this place.  Surrounded by terrifically green scenery, and an eery fog descending upon the towering mountaintops, I imagined Ayder as the Switzerland of the Middle East….although I have never been to Switzerland.

We stayed almost the entire day, laying in the grass, eating sweets, sipping çay, and basking in our surroundings.  The air was chilly and smelled of camp fire, grass and roasted corn…I’ll never forget those smells.

After watching some sort of dance circle, buying a few gifts (including a scarf with a pattern I have only seen on the Black Sea) we rolled out little car down the mountain, out of the fog, in search of our next camp sight…

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On the Road

I’ve been undergoing some major life changes lately, and I can’t wait to write about it…but, first I need to finish up with some stories, drawings and pictures from last summer because it was just too good to skim over.

So, I left off with Sarah and I driving our little rental araba along the Black Sea coast.  After Rize and the tea garden, we continued east towards the Georgian border.  The mountains grew taller, the air thinner, and the roads windier.  Here are a few pictures from a pit stop we made to enjoy a little corn bread, salad and çay, while meeting some feathered friends…

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Çay Bahçesi (The Tea Garden)

Çay, pronounces chai, is the traditional black tea of Turkey…and one of my favorite things about  day to day life in this country.  I was never a big tea drinker in the US, I usually stick to my 5 daily cups of coffee.  However, since my first visit to Turkey in 2008, I became instantly hooked on the amber colored tea that is served everywhere in Turkey, and at any time of day.  There are tea servers (çaycis) in every business, home, park, boat and street in Turkey shouting “Chai!” as they walk amongst their potential customers.  This caffeine packed elixir is never more than a hand waive’s away.

Tea gardens are found all over Turkey.  In small villages, in big cities, the scene is basically the same; a group of men reading news papers or playing backgammon, young couples modestly flirting, clouds of smoke and the sound of clinking spoons stirring sugar into narrow waisted tea glasses.

While traveling along the Black Sea coast, Sarah and I were just so lucky enough to come across Turkey’s tea capital…Rize.  Because of its fertile soil and high precipitation, the eastern Black Sea coast is ideal for cultivating tea.  Rize has been producing tea since the early 1900s, and the large tea garden in the center of town draws tourists from around Turkey and the Middle East.  Rize was not much to look at from first glance…a seedy sort of sea side industrial city, but we were eager to see the garden and have some much needed caffeine so we drove our little rental car up the steep hill in the middle of town, and found ourselves in a little piece of heaven.

The view was absolutely breathtaking, and once we got a waiter’s attention we enjoyed it with our own pot of brewing çay.  Ahhh, now this was a “sparkle moment” as Sarah and I have learned to call them.

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“Rize Cay Bacesi” From my sketchbook, July 6, 2013

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We Drove East…

Sarah and I only had so much money this summer, so we had to decide on whether to spend it on renting a car, or staying in hotels…but we couldn’t do both.  So, the best solution was to rent a car, drive it along the Black Sea coast, find a camping spot every night, and survive and cheese and crackers.  There was that one time when we couldn’t resist a fresh roadside lunch on our way up into the mountains, but other than that we were scrounging…and did we ever have fun!IMG_1931 IMG_1942 IMG_1953 IMG_1964 IMG_1972 IMG_1987 IMG_2030

Meeting in Trabzon!

Let me start by saying Happy New Year!  2013 was fantastic…I spent 6 wonderful months in my home state of Wyoming, and 6 months traveling and making art in India and Turkey.  I couldn’t have asked for a better year; exciting, humbling, productive and prosperous…lets hope for the same on 2014!

Now lets see, where was I….Ah yes, heading North towards the Black Sea.  It was the end of June, and I had a 10 day period in between residencies.  So, my traveling companion, fellow artist and best friend Sarah met me in Trabzon for a Holiday.  Sarah and I have traveled through Turkey together twice before, but have never explored the Northern Coast.  So we set out for the unknown together, starting with one of the best Turkish breakfasts I’ve ever had!

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The Show: Part 2

My last night in Ibrahimpaşa was concluded with an open studio.  After spending most of the day cleaning and packing, my drawings were displayed and I laid out plenty of cookies and juice for my guests.  The show in Goreme had been successful and enjoyable, but I was looking forward to sharing my project with the town that had been my home for 6 weeks, and had given me so much inspiration.

At 4pm, I welcomed the women to my cave studio.  Ibrahimpaşa is a gender segregated community, and in order to respect this way of living, separate times were arranged for men and women to visit the space.  The girls arrived in one large group.  I had spent a lot of time in their homes, helping with food or drawing their portraits, and I was so happy to welcome them into my space and show how grateful I was to know them.  The room was filled with laughter and a sweet, gentle air as we passed drawings around and skyped with my parents in Wyoming (who wanted to see the show and meet my new friends.)  I kissed all the girls as they left, promising that they would be dearly missed.

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I called my family again on skype so that they could meet the men of the town.  My dad compared notes about gardening with the locals as I translated in Turkish, and I suddenly realized how surreal and wonderful the moment was.

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The open studio lingered on for several more hours while we drank çay, ate sweets and haggled about the price of drawings.  I wasn’t expecting to sell much of my work, as I had only sold one piece from the show in Goreme and I was happy just to display and talk about the drawings.  However, to my surprise, there were a few interested buyers.  Turkish culture is well known for haggling about the price of anything, pazarlik as they call it.  So, I found myself bargaining on the price of my drawings in a foreign language as eager eyes shot between myself and the buyer.  When at last the prices were settled, drawings were signed, hands were shook and a few small pieces given away as gifts.  I have found myself bargaining on many occasions in Turkey, but this was the first time I was on the side of selling.  At the end of the night I had pulled down 7 drawings from the wall, sad to see them go, but happy they would be staying in Kapadokya.

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By 9pm I realized that I hadn’t eaten dinner.  So, after the crowd departed, I headed to Kuş Mehmet’s shop for one last tost, sitting in the back as I always did, eating while drawing my last village portrait.

1014264_10151654178317416_2008515997_n 1016506_10151654173737416_859778316_n 189888_10151654174102416_1878289281_nThank you to Willemijn and Paul at Babayan Culture House, all of the Ibrahimpaşa villagers, and everyone I met in Kapadokya this summer…it has been an irreplaceable experience!