Bursa: A Day in the Country with Sculptors

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  , Bursa,
Saturday, July 5, 2008

By sheer coincidence, in my first days in Bursa while I was out walking the streets looking for a rental, I came upon the studio of--apparently--Bursa's only fine arts sculptor. He was teaching a drawing class in his studio, a converted hamam, or Turkish bath.

Okan told me he was working on a commissioned project two days a week in a village some distance outside Bursa. I said that I would like to go with him one day as I had never seen a sculptor or stone cutter work before. And so it came to be that this was the day for that visit.

In the morning I walked to Okan's studio, getting there around 9 am, I think. I thought it was kind of a late start, but as I have perhaps written before, Bursa seems to operate on a clock time slightly rotated clock-wise from mine. They start later in the morning, and go later into the night.

Okan, his assistant and I took a bus to a suburban dolmuş station, then from there a dolmuş to the village of Görükle, a "village" about 10+ kilometers west of Bursa. Well, it used to be a village, perhaps. But now it was rather more like a separate suburban town, having grown up around the Uludağ University complex. Scores of the "standard" modern Turkish concrete apartment complexes now populate the hillsides. Okan had previously done one public sculpture symbolizing the academic nature of the place. The current project, so far consisting of three separate human figures, was being roughed out in the yard of the Görükle Municipal Maintenance shop and vehicle parking. The idea is that the major debris is better handled there, and of course, the work can proceed relatively undisturbed. The figures will be moved to the final site while still having some strength in substance, then be finely tuned by Okan.

There is not much to say about the work out there. I basically sat around all day, occasionally rousing myself to photograph work in progress--and to go with the guys into the older village part for lunch. I didn't see any payment made for our four lunches. Okan seems to be pretty well known by the core locals.

For lunch, and after, a second assistant joined the crew. They are students. Okan instructs them in the rough blocking cutting while he works toward the finer detailing. They all use heavy-duty electric stone cutting saws (Okan a finer cutter/grinder) as well as chisles and hammers. None wear ear or respiratory protection. They all wear dark glasses, but that seems to be because of brightness, not eye protection. The stone is not marble, but a fairly pure whitish calcareous
material. And, they all smoke cigarettes. It's not for me to lecture. . . .

They worked fairly consistently, but it was casual in spirit. Collegial. Fortunately the day was windy and blew the dust quickly away, and was a welcome cooling influence. I wanted to join in with the assistants (except for not having the necessary protective devices and clothing. I said to the assistant, "It's work. But art is fun work. That's why we do it, because it's fun to create." The pictures probably tell as much as any more I could write.

Except the . . .. ok, well, bitch,. . . . one of the "yard" dogs. Well underway, (and not for the first time) as you might see. A very friendly gal, but none too happy at day's end, apparently having lapped up some insecticide or something in a near-by field.
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