Wandering through the landmark mosques, palaces and fountains of Istanbul will leave a first-time visitor in awe of the colourfully designed ceramics covering entire walls, entrances and façades of such structures. These beautiful centuries-old depictions of tulips, carnations, ships and traditional Ottomanesque geometric shapes would have been the only remaining examples of an ancient art form were it not for a handful of artisans and academics who joined forces to found the Iznik Tile Foundation in the 1990s.
Led by Professor Isil Akbaygil, the Foundation sought to uncover the secret methods used by 16th century masters who were employed in the small city of Iznik near Istanbul to make tiles and ceramic ware for the palace. Just as the Ottoman Empire cherished its golden days under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent, Iznik masters perfected the design of the tiles with the use of semi-precious quartz. Tiles covered the walls and façades of buildings and mosques and ceramic objects were sent to foreign rulers as precious gifts. However, as Ottoman empire's power began to wane in the late 17th century, tile workshops started to disappear, taking the valuable methods of tile-making along with them.
It wasn’t until 1996 after years of trial and error, that the Iznik Tile Foundation began making quartz tiles as bright and durable as the ones made in Iznik five centuries ago. The Foundation became the connecting point for tile artists and enthusiasts who all wanted to revive and cherish this lost art.
Nakkas in Istanbul is an exclusive tile, rug and jewellery boutique in the heart of Sultanahmet. The boutique features the work of leading tile artists who work in the style resurrected by the Foundation. Artists that supply Nakkas include Mehmet Gursoy (named as a Living Human Treasure by UNESCO), Ibrahim Erdeyer and Turgut Tuna. Ceramic goods include handcrafted tiles, vases, bowls and plates that perfectly match their 16th century counterparts.
Istanbul City Guide