THE AYVALIK MOSAIC – Sarimsakli Atelier first week

So – I arrived in Ayvalik on Saturday Aug, 22 and settled for the weekend with my friend Tulya Madra. THE HOUSE that is supposed to host the Ayvalik Mosaic is further under renovation.

the garden bathroom that will host the mosaic is just being build

As it happened – Mustafa Salih – my first mosaic teacher (who already played a part in this story in lending me the hydraulic stone cutting machine), happen to have a holiday apartment in Sarimsakli. Sarimsakli is the longest sandy beach on the aegean coast and is 3km  south from the centre of Ayvalik.

Mustafa offered to help with the mosaic. So all the stones and ready fish figures were shipped to his house and when I arrived on Sunday, Aug 23 the Kargo already had been delivered and the workshop set up on his roof top overlooking a tiny bit of the sea.

One has to consider that there were about 80kg of goods that came from Gaziantep and that were damped on the street and 60 year old Mustafa carried it all up a tiny flight of stairs to his roof top!

We have a nice evening with him, his wife and sister and sister in law getting carried away in eating and drinking, so I only briefly explain to Mustafa that the next step would be to cut the discs of beige background lime stone into about 1x1cm tesserae suitable for the background.

On Monday I started my internship in Pergamon which is  50km from south-east of Ayvalik.

view from the town of Bergama onto the Akrolopolis of Pergamon

Coming back on Tuesday I realize that all the beige stone that were collected in the most treacherous terrain at the far east of Turkey and that we managed to cut at the last minute in the marble workshop in Gaziantep and then came all the way from there to Ayvalik,  was in the wrong size!

Mustafa had enthusiastically cut it all – but in about 2x2cm squares so that we now have to cut it again.  Cutting it again into smaller tesserae we will loose at least a third if not half of the material! How disappointed and angry I was with myself that I did not pay more attention to detailed explanation and just assumed he would know as the more experienced mosaic craftsman!

I decided to leave my internship and move back to Ayvalik and not leave my precious work in the hand of others without being there.

It took me the rest of the week to get over the shock and find more similar colored marble. In the end I decided to use also the marble of our kitchen floor.

Mustafa saw the damage, helped collecting more similar colored marble from nearby marble dealers and after some discussion agreed to cut all the material for the background.

It is now necessary to cut ALL the material for the background as I we will use  6 slightly different tones and texture of stone . It all needs to be cut and mixed before we start using it in order to avoid patches of the same color and get an even mix.


THE AYVALIK MOSAIC – Gaziantep fifth and last week

This week is my final week in Gaziantep. From Aug 24 onwards I have an internship at the archeological site of Pergamon. The modern city of Bergama with its archeological site of Pergamon is 50 km away from Ayvalik. In order to get there, set the mosaic studio up in Ayvalik and be ready for work on Monday early morning, I have to leave Gaziantep on Thursday Aug 20.

It is so absolutely crazy to try and do everything at the same time.  But I really want to work in Pergamon and  so I will try to do the crazy thing to work there and on the mosaic in Ayvalik. Not sure how this will work out.

Here in Nusret’s atelier we have finished almost all figures for the floor. It took 4 weeks of two full time workers and one part timer to set up the workshop, build the frames, collect some of the stone material and produce 5 mosaic designs.

Only one big fish is not finished yet. He seems to be sad and angry to be left behind as the others are already shipped to Ayvalik. But Nusret and Tahir agree to finish it and send him to Ayvalik in early September.

I also would like to get the rocks that we collected at the bank of the dam to be cut into discs at the marble workshop that helped us before. But unfortunately the workshop has a holiday and is not open until Wednesday. I really tremble with fear that we don’t get this done anymore and I make plans for shipping the rocks as they are which seems a bit silly.

On Tuesday we are invited by the Zeugma excavation team to take part in an excursion to see the new mosaics that were found in the past years. This is such a great opportunity! So of course we go, also there is urgent work to finish in the atelier. Nusret, Tahir and I travel together with the team of conservators from the conservation lab. It is absolutely stunning to see these fine extremely well preserved works in situ.

Mosaic of the muses, Zeugma Excavation Site

When we are back on Wednesday morning, the marble workshop is open again. Puh! The master agrees to cut the stones in the evening. It is the evening before the Kargo will leave the atelier with all ready mosaics and the tools and material to Ayvalik!

In the last light of this Wednesday we manage to have all Euphrates rocks cut into 1 cm discs and ready to ship. What a run with the time!

On Thursday morning we pack the boards with the mosaics and the stones carefully into bubble wrap and styrofoam and I board the afternoon flight back to Ankara!

It is a run with the time, so no time for tears!

In Ankara my good friend Miriam picks me up from the airport and I crush into her arms.

Collecting Stone at the Euphrates river

A special post needs to be written about the collection of lime stones at the banks of the Euphrates.

During all the days in Gaziantep and in Nusret’s atelier we were discussing the material for the background of the mosaic. It should be of a beige or cream color. I wanted to use the marble that we are also using for our kitchen floor in the  Ayvalik house in order to have continuity in color and material. But Nusret really dislikes the structure of the marble and keeps telling me that there is a beautiful lime stone at the bank of the Euphrates river that would be excellent material for the background.

I can not decide for a long time. Partly I feel Nusret is right, the marble crumbles quite a lot. But I have it in the Atelier, waiting to be cut – so easy.
On the other hand it is also very attractive to go out and find stone – and even more to find it at the place where maybe the stone for the original mosaic also has come from!!! So at last, 4 days before I have to leave Gaziantep, I finally take the decision to go and collect THE LIMESTONE.

So we plan a trip to Belkis Dam and also have a BBQ at the Zeugma excavation site. On Saturday Aug 15 we are leaving Gaziantep in the morning  with tools and meat  and Ayse joins us with a beautiful salad made out of green lentils.

And it becomes a memorable day.
We are searching very near the dam. On the sandy road we pass the new Belkis village which was built as compensation for the flooded village where Nusret comes from.
In the rocks at the bank of the river Nusret is feverishly looking for the right stone, climbing along the edge of the water and moving impossibly heavy stones up the steep cliff. I am very much afraid he will loose his balance and fall but he develops an incredible strength and liveliness.

With a pointy hammer he tests if the rocks are suitable for breaking them into small tesserae. It is not that difficult to see if one cuts off a little bit. One can see it by the texture of the stone and how it behaves when it is cut.

We return to the excavation house with about 10 beautiful beige rocks.

After a nice BBQ with some members of the excavation under the straw roofs of the excavation house we come home around midnight  with about 50kg of beige lime stone like in the original mosaic and from the ground where the original tesserae might have come from 2000 years ago!