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Design ateliers set up shop in Istanbul 21 août 2011

Posted by Acturca in Art-Culture, Economy / Economie, Istanbul, Turkey / Turquie.
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The New York Times (USA) August 21, 2011, p. 5

Robyn Eckhardt

On an unseasonably warm day last winter the tap-tap of a jeweler’s hammer mingled with the clink of espresso cups in Istanbul’s Galata neighborhood. Just a few strides from the neo-bohemians idling at tables outside the cafe-cum-boutique Mavra, the jewelry designer Janset Bilgin hunched over a workbench in her tiny atelier fusing silver, gray labradorite and strips of silk into a bold, chunky necklace.

Artisans are nothing new in this cosmopolitan district wedged between the bottom of the pedestrian shopping street Istiklal Caddesi and the shores of the Golden Horn. From the 14th through the early 20th centuries, Galata was the city’s center of trade with the West, home to European merchants and industrialists. In September 1955 riots directed against Istanbul’s Greek population led to an exodus of many of the neighborhood’s residents; the vacated buildings were taken up by the workshops of woodworkers, instrument makers, cobblers, neon fabricators and other craftsmen.

In recent years contemporary artisans like Ms. Bilgin of Janset Bilgin Design (Basement, 26A Serdar-I Ekrem Caddesi; jansetbilgin.com) have begun setting up shop alongside practitioners of traditional trades. Late-19th-century Art Nouveau apartment buildings have been refurbished; restaurants, bars, boutiques and galleries have opened; and the area, with its prime location, drop-dead views of the Bosporus and cheap rents, has gotten cleaner and safer. As of five years ago « you wouldn’t have felt safe walking here at night, » said Ms. Bilgin, who occupies an apartment seven floors above her atelier. « Now I wouldn’t live anywhere else. »

Galata’s au courant ateliers are clustered around Serdar-I Ekrem Street, a typically narrow lane that begins at the base of the neighborhood’s namesake stone watchtower. Half a block downhill from Ms. Bilgin’s shop is Lightwork (20/c Ali Hoca Sokak; 90-212-245-7826; lightwork-design.com), a narrow brick-walled shop that opened in 2008, displaying spare sculptural lamps by Huseyin Turgut. « The past of Istanbul is here, » said Mr. Turgut, a painter turned lighting designer, explaining the neighborhood’s newfound allure.

« Consciousness is changing. People are realizing the value of old buildings and old furniture, » agreed Fulya Balli, who opened Stock 60/70 (38/a Serdar-I Ekrem Sokak; 90-212-252-6870) with her architecture and restoration business partner, Ilic Kirtas, in 2009. The store overflows with mid-20th-century furniture and housewares from Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, as well as new desks and sideboards made from wood salvaged on Turkey’s Black Sea coast.

Just upstairs in an open workshop behind his store SIR (38/1 Serdar-I Ekrem Sokak; 90-212-293-3661; sircini.com), the ceramics artist Sadullah Cekmece creates decorative pendulums and tableware bearing traditional Ottoman motifs in turquoise, black and white.  »First the artists came to Galata, » Mr. Cekmece said.  »Then the actresses, singers and fashion designers followed. »

For Ms. Bilgin, who in January moved into her garden-level atelier tucked beneath Lilipud (90-212-252-7173; lilipud.com), a clothing boutique that opened in June 2010, the neighborhood’s appeal lies in its contradictions. « This place has happiness, melancholy, history, new art, friendship, energy, » she said. « Everything gives me inspiration here, where I feel the magic of Istanbul every moment. »

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