Sawdust and Shavings

Workshop in Tophane

When you walk up Kumbaracı Ykş from Tophane, you pass a small carpentry workshop on your left. I've often admired this shop for its pure embodiment of the process of creation. Its window is filled with small wooden objects strewn about as if they were recent shipwreck survivors washed to shore. The objects are not on display for purchase- they are there for possible future use, laying this way and that, they seem like small creatures peering out curiously at you as you also look up at them. An enormous strand of wooden beads hangs down like a giant's humble tespih and the sawdust and filings have accumulated in the corners of the window's shelves like the aftermath of a desert storm.

Inside the shop lives a bigger version of the window sill with remnants of sawing and shaping of wood piled up as lightly as freshly fallen snow. It is the result of complete immersion in one's work. I imagine that the shop must get cleaned once in a while, otherwise the shop owner would long ago have gotten buried in an avalanche of shavings, the light brown flakes accumulating high enough to block the door and windows, closing the poor craftsman in. He is always hard at work or chatting with a visitor or customer. The shag carpet of wood filings gives the feeling of a nest, of warmth. Here is a place where things are made and brought to life, a cradle, the primordial sludge of wooden objects.

It reminds me of a workshop in Tavuk Pazari- the networks of streets surrounding the Grand Bazaar, where friends from my first year in jewelry class took me for supplies. While they showed me around, we passed a shop where jewelry tables were crafted. The entrance was a small sliver of a passageway that opened into a room where the air was dense with wood particles- a fog as dense as the one that clings to the Bosphorus on Istanbul mornings. The carpenter stood in the center of it- a captain a the helm of a churning ship.

I decided to go back to this workshop after passing the Kumbaracı one, to see if I could find my way. I walked over the Galata Bridge and followed the signs to Kapalıçarşı and Çermberlitaş, remembering the small courtyard of a mosque with an egg vendor in one corner, a sprawl of pink carton crates encircling its door, cradling bright white orbs. Next door was a man named Tonton- a good-natured gold and silver plater, who worked his magic with ordinary kitchen utensils, pouring gold water in a pot on a stove and running an electric current through it, as nonchalantly as boiling water for tea. On his wall hung small wire hooks, like skeletons from miniature umbrellas used to dip the objects to be plated. Their upturned tips were golden and seemed like tools for incantations- sorcerer's wands.

I found my way back to this courtyard. The egg cartons were nearly depleted, marking the end of the day. Tonton's second floor shop still displayed a sign and around the corner was the small sliver of a hallway, where a carpenter was bent over, absorbed in his work- the production of jewelry tables.

It was comforting to know that I could still get to these places. I don't know the street names, but somehow, by scratching the dusty, wood-shaving laden recesses of my memory, I can still find my way.

Jewelry table workshop (April 2013)

Gold-tipped dipping structures (April 2013)

Gold plating (April 2013)

Plating (April 2013)

Gold water (April 2013)

Jewelry table workshop- May 2015

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