‘İlkbahar: Umudun doğuşu’ or ‘Spring: Hope is born’

As a key part of my Turkish ceramic education I needed to learn how to design and produce a classically influenced and yet totally original repeating design (‘ulama’). First task was to design a single tile that would then either flow onto the surrounding tiles in an identical manner or be mirrored onto the consecutive squares. Of course, each design element had to follow traditional rules about layout, shape and style; this was not a matter of merely slapping a few tulips on a square… as such, initial design work took a couple of months.

Once the first tile was done, it was time to transfer the design and carefully paint the outlines onto each tile… there went another couple of months (but pleasant ones, painting the black outlines is my favourite part!).


After the outline was complete I could add colour. Each colour is applied in turn, with a strict order as to which comes first. Blue is always first, red must be last. The final red layer needs three coats so the final stage always seems to take forever. And then it all went in the kiln, that crazy, complex wizardry of chance and fire. This piece came out completely differently to how I had imagined and I struggled to look at it at first. THAT green! It’s just so bright! But with time I saw that it had a freshness and vibrancy that was fun and fresh. It felt fun and hopeful after months of painting it in the dark evenings and waiting for it to be finished. This is how I came to call the piece ‘İlkbahar: Umudun doğuşu’ or ‘Spring: Hope is born.’

It appeared in an exhibition in central Istanbul in May/June 2017 before coming home to adorn the wall in our flat (thanks to my husband’s excellent skills with the drill).