The noise, the old and the new, the improvised and the temporary – all the stories that are told and all the experiences shared, the constant change and all the unpredictable aspects of life. What fascinates and captivates us is the versatility and complexity at hand. On our travels around Istanbul we consciously move outside the boundaries of our comfort zone – we want to discover, learn and act.
In this day and age actions of inhospitableness are everywhere to be found: thousands of people flee from their homes only to be welcomed with hostility and xenophobia. Populists all over the world are moving social masses and negatively influencing the behavior of many. Under such circumstances, it has become essential to us as designers to concentrate our creative efforts on topics such as hospitality and intercultural exchange – to search for artistic approaches for opposing such social and cultural shifts.
The designers that are part of the collective ISTANBUL’DAN travel to the Turkish metropolis on a regular basis. Fascinated by the entire city and its special neighborhoods thriving with arts and crafts, they have decided to cooperate with artisans from two of Istanbul’s historic areas, Sishane and Galata, to create products. The results seek out the possibilities offered by the production techniques and structures at hand. They interpret the city’s topics and tell stories. In tiny workshops, solutions are developed with simple tools and plenty of improvisation. The artisans work together in a tightly woven net, making almost anything possible through mutual support. Linguistic and cultural barriers are easily conquered by way of gestures, simple drawings visualize ideas that can then be realized hand in hand. The created pieces are therefore more than plain design objects. They function as messengers between opposing cultures – they represent an homage to Istanbul, its inhabitants and the local crafts. Aside from cooperating with the artisans, the project is also supported by designer and activist Aslı Kıyak İngin, founder of the initiative “Made in Şişhane”, as well as the studio “Artisan’s school”. By establishing important liaisons, helping with translations and sharing their experiences, the studio and İngin facilitate ISTANBUL’DAN’s goal to turn the audience’s attention to the potential that lies within the existing networks of artisans – to generate new creative perspectives for the craftsmen so that their crafts don’t die off. Because even though the trade is filled with potential, it is teetering on the brink of collapse – cheap imported goods from Asia dictate the prices and the city plans to modernize certain parts of town and relocate the production workshops. On top of that, the younger generations are constantly loosing interest in knowledge and manual skills of traditional crafts, leading to a lack of successors. The know-how and expertise cannot be passed on adequately.
Working in Istanbul as opposed to anywhere else, is especially distinguishable through the existing interwoven structures of the many small workshops. The artisans communicate and cooperate in amicable relationships within short distance to one another. Materials, machines and skills are exchanged and shared, ideas can quickly be transferred into a series of experiments. Aside from the artisans’ expertise and knowledge of the crafts, it is also their enthusiasm towards experimenting and their eagerness to improvise that makes this experience even more unique, offering many possibilities to develop further ideas into products.
The cooperation between artisans and designers combines creative ideas and mechanical skills, bringing forth unique objects and small editions. As the designer is required to participate and be present during the entire production process, and the artisanal production methods limit the amount of objects created, we have consciously chosen to make only limited editions.
Thanks to the artisans’ flexibility, unique techniques and special process steps can be repeated easily after having developed one product. The designers profit from a functioning network that runs like clockwork – the individual craftsmen work hand in hand, enabling even batch productions in the shortest amount of time. Yet due to their artisanal production methods, every product in the collection remains one-of-a-kind.