Life is Better With a Chocolate Spoon and the Art of Ebru

The last few weeks in Istanbul have been a bit tumultuous. Mixed into the excitement of being in a new city is also a bit of homesickness and establishing myself at a new job and living in the school's bubble has been challenging and will take time. Fortunately, I have found a sure fix for all these feelings- a sort of miracle cure for those far-from-home-blues.
Just a spoonful of sugar... sure to make the medicine go down. Khave Dunyasi, a Turkish coffee chain,  serves every drink with a chocolate spoon and a little bowl of chocolate covered espresso beans.  They sure know how to treat a girl right. Jeremy, forecasting potential future homesickness, found a way to procure a whole box of the delicious stirrers. What a man!

These last few weeks, I've been seeking out activities outside of the school community with some success. Two weeks ago, I spotted a free ebru workshop through mymerhaba.com- a great website that lists the goings on around town. Ebru, is the Turkish art of paper marbling and the workshop was held right in front of Yeni Cami (New Mosque) in the Sultanhamet neighborhood.

It was a little crowded, but I was able to peek over shoulders to observe the master artist go through the process, where a design is created in a tub of water and printed on a piece of paper. First, the artist sprinkled what I later found out was turpentine with various sized brushes on the water surface- a technique that creates the marbling effect. She then used metal pin tools of various thicknesses to create a floating design on the water, by dipping the tool in ink and carefully placing the ink, drop by drop onto the water.  When she got a good sized stain of color on the water (and some had several colors within one small pool), she wove the pin tool through it with quick deliberate gestures, creating leaves, a stem, or petals. She teased curving ends from the petal tips and leaves, until she had a beautiful buoyant floral painting. Once the design was ready, she placed a piece of paper on top of it (without submerging it), and pulled up the finished design.  



After a few demonstrations, she asked if anyone was interested in trying their hand at the same magic. There was a crowd of people in front of me and I figured that I wouldn't get to try, but no one took her up on the offer. So when we made eye contact, I nodded eagerly and she waved me over to her small artist's stool. I immediately felt my cheeks go red, feeling the crowd's eyes on me and staring at the jars of inks and tiny metal wands, as I realized I really had no idea where to begin and that the artist only spoke Turkish. She patiently led me through the process with the help of another printer, who spoke English and very kindly translated for me. The printer literally held my shaky hand and guided me through the making of a tulip, although she let me do the initial marbling all by myself (which I say is the stick figure equivalent to the marbling that she produced).

Afterward, I was curious about ebru and its connection to the marbled paper that Florence is also famous for, and found this interesting article about it online. Turns out that Europeans got it from Turkey! I'll have a chance to find out a bit more about it this coming weekend at another more extensive workshop at an art center called Les Arts Turcs. Hopefully my hand will be a little more steady and my marbling a little more marbled!

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