"I have travelled with Denys James in Thailand, Turkey
Denys’s trips are always well organized,
while leaving space for some adventurous members of the travelling
group to take two to three day trips on their own. Denys’s local
help/translators are always competent, most of them are from the
world of academia, teachers etc and they not only have command
of the language, local customs, but also enjoy the exposure
to art/craft that the trip offers.
Hotel accommodations are always excellent,
locations are central and within walking distance to places of
interest. The artists
visited are well known artists or makers carrying on the tradition
of many generations.
The pace of the trip is relaxed, and great
during the trip. It is probably due to the common interest but
also due to the atmosphere that is created by Denys himself.
I have great memories of the trips and we (
my friend/s I travel with ) talk about our experience even today,
whether it is the hotel where we stayed, the river we crossed
or the people we met. I
am still in touch by email with a girl I met in Thailand, Korat,
in whose wonderful place we stayed.
I highly recommend travel with Denys and
the countries he took us. I am looking forward to the trip
to Myanmar ( Burma) and Morocco."
A Very Special Place
Albert Craft Council magazine]
and October, 2002, I was lucky enough to be one of a group of artists,
primarily ceramists, to travel to Turkey. The trip was organized
by Denys James, a well-known ceramist from Salt Spring Island.
is a city of 14,000,000. It's very smoggy but has surprisingly clean
streets and a modern-looking population. Prices are very reasonable
and people are friendly. Our pension, The Side, was in the old city
and just a step out the door and I had a great view of the turrets
of the Blue Mosque, which were beautifully lit in the skyline at
night. The interior of that mosque and most of the others we toured
were decorated top to bottom in Iznik tiles. The variety and splendor
We spent a day
touring mosques, the Aya Sofya, and the ancient Spice Market. The
next day we visited the Grand Bazaar (labyrinthine medieval shopping
mall containing 65 streets and 4400 shops) and the Turkish and Islamic
Art Museum. The following day included the Sunken Cistern that was
built by Constantine, an underground cistern, now a museum, filled
with fish and echoing classical music through the dimly lit pillars
spread throughout its large expanse. I'm always a bit awe-struck
by the historical significance and the beauty of the ancient monuments
and museums I visit. Turkey was very unique and, beyond Istanbul,
it became magical.
The trip to
Ankara was a delightful experience. We took a ferry to the terminus
for the Anatolian trains and took an overnight train. We all had
sleeping compartments and after testing out the local liquor of
choice, Raki, I had a comfortable and enchanting night. It was definitely
more exotic than the other available modes of transportation. Morning
brought us into Ankara and we headed for the Angora House Hotel
in the heart of the old city, a Hittite settlement nearly 4000 years
The Hotel was
full of beautiful antiques, and was itself a refurbished antique,
and the shops in town were full of old Turkish carpets and a variety
of other very antique items. Wandering through the narrow streets
of the old city, surrounded by large stone walls, I could see that
time hadn't taken much of a toll on the lifestyle of the people.
Many women ran from their homes to show us their scarves with elegant
and delicate crocheted lace edges. A large majority of the women
outside of Istanbul wrap their heads in scarves, those with the
lace edges being more special, but many scarves of beautiful silken
fabric and floral patterns were worn. Prices were phenomenally low
and I couldn't resist several purchases.
wonderful practice in Turkey, even in the Bazaar in Istanbul, is
to offer all customers a glass of "chai", the Turkish
black tea. I'm not a tea drinker, or should I say I wasn't, but
I really developed a taste for it and loved the hospitality and
genuine friendliness that accompanied every cup. It's a lovely custom
and seemed very personal in an impersonal world. I've purchased
the double teapot and the little glass cups and plan the same hospitality
in my studio. It's really a nice tradition.
we headed to Cappadocia. I knew of the famous underground city of
Derinkuyu, built to house a community of Christians fleeing persecution,
but I had no idea of the mystical and amazing environment in which
I'd find myself. Our home base for a week was a town called Avanos,
nestled on the north bank of the Red River.
Avanos is a
town focused on potters (although they are also known for their
onyx and carved alabaster). There are literally piles of pots around
telephone poles, against the walls of storefronts, piled around
just about anything you could pile pots around. The town center
has a monument to a well-known potter in town and two very large
pots surrounding the monument are also made by a senior potter in
town. The fountain in the center of town is made of stacked pots
with the spout made of two pots joined together. Many people in
town collect their water there every day.
In Avanos, whilst
not out and about being inspired by the landscape, we spent several
hours a day in a studio testing the local clays and trying a little
creativity of our own. Erdogan Gulec, our host, presented us with
an intriguing space in which to work. There's barely a wall in Avanos
that doesn't hold one of Erdogan's murals (a slight exaggeration)
and he is a generous and warm-hearted man. He not only offered us
the run of his studio but tea and Raki were in endless supply.
Even the Sofa
Motel, where we stayed in Avanos, was unusual and delightful. The
lobby, hallways and rooms were piled with antiques of every description.
To get to my room was truly a trip; first up and down stairs and
down hallways, then through a long tunnel with large and very odd
shaped stairs carved out of the rock, then out through a courtyard,
up more stairs to a lovely balcony. From the window in my room I
could see the river and much of the town. I could see the sunrise
and hear the morning call to prayer echoing through the town. It
truly was enchanting.
Michener and I had booked a few extra days in Istanbul. The group
flew back to Istanbul together and we slowly said farewell to our
new friends. We visited Chora Church, a Byzantine building with
14th Century gilded mosaics that were amazing. We took ferries from
Eminonu, the main ferry terminal for travelling back and forth along
the Bosphorus, from the European side to the Asian side and back
again. We spent time in Taksim, the hub of modern Istanbul, and
we visited the Prince's Islands. We experienced breathtaking views
and amazing tombs and tiles.Turkey
truly is a treasure with much more to offer than I could squeeze
into such a short visit. Back in Red Deer, I'm inspired and have
a plethora of ideas for future projects. What a great trip!