Anatolian Artisans
Meliha Coskun

Meliha Coskun received her formal training at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Marmara University in Istanbul in contemporary ceramics. She later studied at a traditional Iznik school and developed her own style of Iznik, early Ottoman and Seljuk pottery traditions. Today she is one of Turkey’s renowned master ceramic artists and her works have been showcased all over the world including Smithsonian Museum Shops. She participated in the Smithsonian Silk Road Festival in 2002.

As a ceramic artist Meliha Coskun is known to utilize the quartz close to the way it was done in the 16th century. It is a challenging process that gives depth and whiteness to her ceramics. In addition she uses all natural colors and produces her own blue, turquoise, black, green, and red colors to produce her own unique adaptations of Iznik designs.

Tile making has been a tradition in Turkey for more than a 1000 years and Iznik, antique Nicaea, was the center of tile making for 400 years. Meliha Coskun works at nearby Bursa .

AnARt carries an inventory of Meliha Coskun’s works.


HRACH ASLANYAN – A  Master Craftsman in Istanbul

Interviewed by Burcu Yilmaz

Hrach Aslanyan is both a “sadekar”* and “designer” who was trained by his uncle while he was studying his third year in the primary school. During his apprenticeship period, he fell in love with his art . Now he is a master artisan training other enthusiastic people in the newly founded art house “Mahrec Sanat Evi”.  Currently he is working to revive an old Ottoman art form- “Murassa”(meaning studded with precious stones).
* “Sadekar” is the master in jewelry who works with precious stones and sets them on metal objects.  “Sade” means “plain”.  Products which are not yet adorned with stones or glazed are called “sade”.

How did your career begin?
I was a young child when I first started to go to my uncle’s workshop. I was going to primary school at this time. Every summer I worked with my uncle. Then, I entered the economics department but I really couldn’t make it. My mathematics was so bad. I left school immediately and went on with my art.
I was so lucky that my uncle was my master. Master is the real leader in life and above the father. Along with the artistic support he gave me, he also instructed me in social and financial skills. He taught me to listen to classical music and read books as well.
I witnessed many masters but my uncle was a great man. He instilled discipline. We couldn’t drink tea or coffee or even listen to the radio when he was nearby.  But I like this hierarchy even though you may find it unnecessary or funny today. We had a real master- apprentice relationship. I am still supporting this system in our new founded “Mahrec Art House”.

What was your motivation behind “Mahrec Art House?”
Jewelry is a very good business in Turkey. Turkey is the second biggest jewelry exporter in the world after Italy. Although this is a big success, the artistic value is disappearing. Industrial production is getting more popular and many sub-branches are appearing like glazer, cutter, etc. Our profession is not suitable for industrialization. You can’t reflect your feelings to the images through this way.
Number of Sadekars are diminishing  and the art form is not properly appreciated. So, in this art house, we would like to educate, support or revive (however you call it) this art form. Mahrec Art House initiated its activities in October  2008. The Center provides training in traditional methods of jewelry making in order to  transmit  the Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar) culture,  the master-apprentice relationship to the current generation.

What is the education system in Mahrec Art House?
We have one course going on right now named “Jewelry Education Program”. We have almost 20 students. The best thing is we have people from different cities and also from different neighborhoods in Istanbul. We have people from Gazi Mahallesi, Kemer Country, Samatya, Mor Tepe, etc. which means they are all from different backgrounds, social and economic classes.
The program is quite new for Turkey. I use the same system that I was taught. The system in the Art House is based on three levels as in the traditional approach: apprentice, headworker, master relationship. The course is composed of three parts: design, workshop and sales- promotion.
For example, we have design courses but also have workshop classes. Today, many schools skip workshop classes. Then, the students don’t know if their designs are applicable or not.
I didn’t name it as a jewelry course.  We founded an Art House which may embrace other art forms in the future. For instance, I would like to open a calligraphy workshop. I know the last icon-master in Turkey; I would like to invite him. Also, stone-shaving in not taught in Turkey, we buy shaped stones from India. So, why not teach these arts? I also would like to add enamel (mine), mounting (kakmacılık), and filigree (telkari).
Of course, we need more than 20.000 Ytl and also a space for this. There will be discussions  with the Istanbul Chamber of Jewelry as this is a joint project.

What does Mahrec mean?

Mahrec is a word from the Arabic language. It means “school or bureau” that educates people in a specific profession.  I like the meaning very much. Also, it is not a word that is used very often. I find it very meaningful for our Art House.

I know that currently you are working to revive an old art form named “Murassa”. First, what is murassa?

It is a dead art form in Turkey. According to the Antique Encylopedia, it refers to the objects which are adorned with precious stones and gold. Murassa glass, murassa candle-stands are some examples of this art- form.

I believe the art of murassa had origins in the Ottoman times. When people were  making a pilgrimage to Mecca, if the Sultan couldn’t go, he sent murassa objects as valuable presents.

What made you decide to revive this form?

Five or six  years ago, a lady from Japan came to my workshop and told me that they were planning to organize  a “Turkish Week”. So, she asked me to produce objects that represent Turkish culture and Istanbul. She ordered candle stands.

Normally, I didn’t work with objects but, I designed two murassa candle stands. One represented  Hagia Sophia and the other represented  Dolmabahçe Palace. I sent them to Japan and people liked them very much. After this success, on one of my trips to Anatolia, I saw murassa objects. This motivated and inspired me to continue to design and work with objects.

What kind of materials do you use to adorn the objects? Also, how do you design your products?

For a candle stand, I cover them with gold designs. Then I decorate them with various precious stones such as lapis-lazuli, emerald, tourmaline, diamond and ruby.
It is a very difficult process. You spend more than a month on each  object. So, it is not logical to use semi-precious stones instead of precious stones.
In terms of design, I don’t like copying from the catalogues. I use my inspiration and design on my own.

Do you think people can be attracted to murassa objects?

Murassa objects are very special pieces. Today, people buy cellular  phones with diamonds or cars with special designs with precious materials. I am sure they  will  buy these precious objects as well.  But the problem is that artists can’t be business  people. They can’t both produce and promote their products. Artists reflect their divine dreams to objects,  and canvases.
For example, I am planning to create a collection of 30-40 murassa objects and organize an evening in a special venue. I will need a group of people to organize this event which makes it difficult. It would be a great opportunity to attract people and introduce the art of murassa.

Last words?

Founding the Mahrec Art- house is a project that stirs me up very much. Sometimes, I feel like we are Don Quixotes.Working on murassa also gives me the same feelings. But I really believe that we have to keep all these art-forms alive which are very special to us, to our culture and the city of Istanbul.

Thank you…

In order to contact with Hrach Aslanyan or Mahrec Sanat Evi, you can e-mail to:

... and his art