THE AYVALIK MOSAIC – Gaziantep second week

… I come back to Gaziantep on Monday morning, check into the hotel and go to work immediately.

Nusret has already made all frames during the Bayram holiday even. What an enthusiasm!

We start to break the marble I have brought, with hammer and hardie. Since Roman times this is the traditional way of breaking stone into small tesserae. It gets you more or less even sided cubes but not with such straight edges like the machine cut tesserae one can buy in the craft shops. The unregular shapes of hand cut tesserae add liveliness to a mosaic which is an important feature in my designs.

Tuesday is all day stone cutting too.

At our stone cutting area we sit quite close together and work with silent joy. Stone, like fabric, has one direction in which it breaks more even then in the other directions. If we find this side of the stone and manage to let our hammers hit the marble precisely over the blade of the hardie the stone breaks beautifully straight. This is a skill I would like to train myself in in the coming weeks.
But in the evening my right arm hurts.

Wedneday – cutting stones. My arm still hurts. I change to a lighter hammer, because I fear to damage the tendons in my arm due to the unusual movement and the weight of the hammer.
In the afternoon my telephone rings just at the moment when my arm starts to hurts more and I am asking myself if I can do this for much longer.
….on the phone is Mustafa Salih – my first mosaic teacher from Ankara. After talking to him about the pain in my arm – I have a hydraulic stone cutting machine on the way from Gemlik at the Marmara Sea to Gaziantep. I can not believe this amount of willingness to help and fast action that I have experienced so far.

Thursday we go to see the original fishes in the Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep. Tahir the hairdresser and Nusret’s apprentice too joins us. He has made a beautiful copy of the gypsy girl mosaic.
I have the impression he sees the original in the museum the first time. I am surprised he did not go to see the original during the year he worked on his own version of it.

Friday morning we start glueing the first tesserae down onto the canvas with white wood glue – a great moment.

In the afternoon, the machine arrives with the Kargo for incredible 36 Lira, unbelievably cheep for a 50kg machine!

Happily we take it in use – Nusret and Tahir love it and so is Nusret’s oldest grand son.

Friday night I leave back to Ankara. Tahir’s family comes to say good bye. His father, who is a taxi driver, takes me to the airport. They had invited me the night before to their roof top  where they spend the nights as their houses are made out of concrete and become too hot to sleep in during Gaziantep summers. Tahir’s mum is an incredible cook and roof top gardener. I was lucky to see one of her plants opening her flowers with the rising of the moon that night and eat her yummy soups.

I have two new families now – Nusret’s and Tahir’s!

THE AYVALIK MOSAIC – Gaziantep first week

…..coming back to Nusret Bey … he worked for 30 years as a security guard at the archeological site of Zeugma. So he saw a lot of the mosaics being lifted. He actually was involved in lifting mosaics himself which means he really knows the structure of ancient mosaics very well. Through this he came to make mosaics himself.

Mosaic by Nusret Özdemir


And this most experienced master agreed over the phone to work with me on the Ayvalik mosaic!!!

Our first meeting was quit daring for the two of us. Thankfully Prof Görkay came along to translate. But still it was difficult to talk about the idea, the techniques –  that Nusret Bey uses and the techniques I thought of using.

But I liked Nusret and his workshop in one of the less affluent areas of Gaziantep and left the meeting with the vague feeling that it will work out somehow … the most difficult part for me was to talk about payment. I had never before payed somebody to work with me and in this case it was especially tricky as Nusret had two roles – being an usta – the Turkish word for “master” and at the same time a worker carrying out the work that I conceived, designed and planned.

But we immediately set to work after Nusret’s technique, which I hardly understood in the conversation – and I came along and watched and it slowly made sense:

First we bought wooden slats and MDF board and had it sawn to certain measures in the neighborhoods carpentry

… then we went to buy white cotton material in an interesting workshop where two men made beautifully quilted duvet covers

…. then Nusret set to work in his own workshop. He reinforced the MDF boards with the slats,

…. painted the fabric with white glue and let it dry to be quite stiff

… fitted the fabric onto the MDF boards like a canvas

… and glued the printout of the the fishes onto the canvas with a special shoemakers glue

And the gipsy girl always watched us.

After this preparatory work I went back to Ankara – and the neighborhood kids where posing with dog –

to pack up my own atelier during the Seker Bayram (this big islamic holiday at the end of the fasting period Ramadan).

I had to pack up because my husband got posted to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, and we have to leave Turkey! What a development!

During the three days I was often sighing how crazy it is to ship a mosaic atelier around the world!




… and off went the marble from Ankara University to Gaziantep in the truck of the Zeugma Archeological Project.
(click on the pic and they open in a new link)

Zeugma Archeological Project

Here I would like to extend my special  thanks to Prof Dr Kutalmis Görkay from Ankara University Archeological Faculty and director of the Zeugma Excavation Project for being my sponsor in my mosaic endeavor in the past year. Sponsor not in a monetary way. But he was always there with his knowledge, advice and ideas how this project could be put into practice in the context of Turkey, which I as a foreigner often would have misjudged. He kept my idealism going and not let it drown in practical problems.

Prof Görkay was the one who connected me with Nusret Özdemir, who comes from the village of Belkis, which was flooded due to building the Belkis dam on the Euphrates river. Up to the year  2000 together with many other villages the two archeological  sites of the ancient cities – Seleuceia (today Zeugma) and Apamea got flooded.

The fishes of my mosaic decorated once also the floor of a house in Zeugma owned by a wealthy Roman family. I can imagine the owner and their guests contemplating over which fish could have been the one that just came up from the fisherman from the river Euphrates and is now being prepared in the kitchen for a fine meal.

And I imagine the same conversation in our house when we sit with guests looking at those fishes again.

When the waters of the Euphrates almost reached the mosaics at the archeological site of Zeugma a rescue operation by more than 200 specialists lifted the mosaics and other archeological finds out of the grounds and brought them to the archeological museum in Gaziantep. Later in 2011 the Zeugma Mosaic Museum was opened with the mosaics beautifully presented.