ARCHAEOLOGY

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CARPETS AND KILIMS

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HAND PAINTED TEXTILES

'Yazma' is the name given to the application of designs to textiles either directly with a brush called “kalem”, or using a wooden mold carved in relief. The major centers for this art in the Ottoman period were Amasra, Bartin, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Istanbul, Kastamonu, Tokat, Yozgat and Zile. The specimens from Istanbul rose to prominence with its hand-painted 'Kandilli' textiles, highly prized for their artistry, in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Production of such hand-printed textiles commences with the application of designs previously drawn on paper to a piece of cloth stretched over a frame. The outlines are first traced using only a brush, and the areas to be colored are then filled in, exactly as if making a painting. Prints of this type are also known as 'hand-prints'. In the combined technique, the outlines are first printed on the cloth with a wooden mold, and the colors then filled in with a brush. In block-printing both the black outlines and the colored areas are applied to the cloth using appropriate molds.

The predominance of nature manifests itself in the motifs used as in all branches of Turkish art. Motifs such as stylized tulips, carnations, cherries, and pomegranate trees are frequently encountered alongside the occasional stag, horse, cock, sparrow and peacock motif. Istanbul prints exhibit a refinement of taste and feeling and all the beauties of nature in a multiplicity of colors. The primarily symmetrical floral compositions on hand-printed textiles are either dyed separately or in groups. Black, brown and dark red tones predominate on the prints of Tokat. The most salient characteristic of 'karakalem' and 'elvan' prints which employ the block-printing method is that the design covers the entire surface of the cloth. Apple and cherry designs are the most common on Tokat prints. While the predominance of black is conspicuous on Kastamonu prints with their circular compositions, colorful flowers printed on a black field are a style peculiar to Bartin. Prints from the Gaziantep region meanwhile distinguish themselves by both materials used and techniques employed: the design is applied on silk using the techniques of printing and tie-dyeing.

Hand-printed textiles such as head scarves, quilt covers, tablecloths, prayer mats, pillowcases, handkerchiefs, couch covers, napkins, towels, shirts and turbans were some of the highly prized items during Ottoman times. Among them, those still used widely today are the 'yemeni' or head scarves, whose names vary from region to region. Elaborately crocheted borders, three-dimensional like lace, are characteristic of such head scarves. As in the art of hand-printing, the most common motifs used for these border decorations are the stylized forms inspired by nature. The use on the crocheted borders of the same floral shapes printed on the cloth is a beautiful example of the way these two handicrafts developed hand in hand. The art of block-printing, which constitutes the essence of the advanced technologies later developed for the printing of cloth, is slowly vanishing today. The traditional art of hand-printing cloth, once practiced so intensively in several regions of Anatolia, survives today on a limited scale in Tokat and Kastamonu.

Reference: SKYLIFE/Dr.IDIL AKBOSTANCI and NUSRET NURDAN EREN

You can visit the TCF's online database “Who's Who in Turkish Culture and Art” to see block printing artists' profiles.

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