The particular climatic and geographical features of Anatolia have enabled locals over the centuries to create a unique cultural mosaic. Different civilizations have blessed Anatolia with a cultural heritage that can be found nowhere else in the world. Today, newer traditions emerge as the people of Anatolia combine the past and the present using their creativity and imagination.
Nowadays, there are craft shops on almost every other street across Türkiye, and the locals are always ready to teach you their beautiful traditional handicrafts. From Turkish embroidery to çini tiles, there so many Turkish handicrafts that will attract your attention.
Ceramics, Earthenware, and Çini Tiles
Called by the phonetically identical Turkish word seramik, ceramic is a material produced by firing a non-metallic mineral and shaping it into a unique object - say a vase or a pot. Hard and heat-tolerant, these objects are as functional for everyday use as they are appealing to the eye. Common examples of ceramics are earthenware, porcelain, and tiles, all of which find themselves a place in the everyday life of a Turkish usta, the term used to refer to a master of a craft. Artistic pottery, including tableware, tiles, figurines, and other artifacts are now indispensable decorative and utilitarian items of Turkish homes, and many ateliers welcome visitors to experience for themselves how these unmatched beauties are produced. Archaeology also closely studies ceramic remnants of the past to better understand the cultures, technologies, and behaviors of our distant ancestors.
Talking of the people of the past, it’s important to highlight that çömlekçi çarkı (Turkish for potter’s wheel) is thought to have been invented in present-day Türkiye and more specifically, in Mesopotamia. By the 4th millennium BCE, it is believed that the potter’s wheel had come into use. Its use spread from these lands to nearly all Eurasia and much of Africa, while it still occupies a place in Türkiye’s contemporary culture. Today, you will find examples of çanak çömlek (earthenware), tiles, and other ceramic figures and figurines across the entire country – they are distinguished according to their type, such as çini tiles and earthenware.
Generally exhibited on walls, glazed tiles became an essential cultural asset for the Ottomans by the 16th and 17th centuries. Their history, however, dates as far back as the Karakhanids (955 CE) and is known to have accelerated during the reign of the Seljuk Turks.
Known in Turkish as İznik çinisi, İznik tiles are highly decorated ceramics. They feature motifs of plants, animals, and other geometrical shapes and patterns. İznik tiles are mostly colored in blue and red, while some exceptional varieties also use black
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque in İstanbul and the nearby Topkapı Palace are two of the prominent structures where tiles have been used extensively as a wall decoration. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque alone showcases 20,000 tiles, which is why the mosque is also known as “Blue Mosque.” The traditional craftsmanship of çini-making has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List since 2016.It’s always wonderful to know that local artisans and crafts are appreciated internationally!
Tiles have become an indispensable part of Turkish art and culture with examples available across the county. Located toward the easternmost part of the Aegean region, Kütahya is famous for its porcelain, which has been an important part of the city’s culture since the 14th century. In the province of Kütahya, there is a Tile Museum (Çini Müzesi) next to the Great Mosque (Ulu Cami) that exhibits some of the finest examples of Kütahya ceramics. Fine examples of tiles can also be seen in the Tiled Kiosk and the Pera Museum, both located in İstanbul.
Çanakkale is another city that’s famed for its ceramic tradition. In fact, its name can be literally translated as “pottery castle”! Çanakkale ceramics are often painted over with creamy glazes (usually clear), and they are very diverse in appearance. Reflecting regional characteristics, ceramics first appeared here in the 18th century.
Pottery (çanak çömlek) has been practiced in Anatolia for many centuries, and has served as a source of income for locals. Since it is not possible to produce quality pottery using only one type of clay - it would crumble during the process - a special red paste, taking its color from local soil, is used, and makes the objects extraordinarily strong.