Have you ever wondered how those beautiful copper lanterns are made, or who it is that spends hours carving out the intricate Seljuk patterns on a screen made entirely out of copper? Meet Kaya Kalayci, one of the last and greatest copper artists in Istanbul.
Recently, during an architectural conference that I attended, a leading New York architect said that Turkey is in that beautiful phase where the most advanced technology is available as well the most talented artists working on traditional crafts. While this may be true, it can’t be denied that craftsmen are fading away fast, because handcraft can’t compete with mass production. That is why Kaya Kalayci is a truly exceptional character.
Born into a family of master copper craftsmen based in the Grand Bazaar for four generations, Kalayci forewent the opportunity of studying at one of the finest universities in the country in order to continue his father’s profession. Over the years, he has been proved right in his decision, because he has become very successful in what he does, and famous for his art.
Kalayci is not your average Grand Bazaar salesman. He does not produce simple souvenirs or copies of historical artifacts. He is a craftsman with an artist’s vision, in the sense that he creates contemporary interpretations of an 18,000 year-old tradition. In the award-winning documentary about his art, ‘Light of Copper,’ Kalayci explains that copper was his first toy, and he is very happy that it has also become his profession.
You have probably seen Kalayci’s work, whether on the façade of Sakirin Mosque in Uskudar, or in the lobby of Les Ottomans Hotel, in the rooms of Four Seasons Hotel Bosphorus, or at the extraordinary reception desk of the W Hotel. He works with leading interior designers and architects both here and abroad, in concepts for luxurious spaces decorated with the beautiful symbolism of the Ottomans and Seljuks.
Kalayci’s one-of-a-kind handiwork is often exhibited in galleries and museums, in order to teach a younger generation about this beautiful, millennia-old tradition. These days he works mostly in his studio, making unique decorative pieces that are sold at his shop in NiÅŸantaÅŸÄ±.
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