Monday, February 25, 2013

Mediterranean Adventure - Part 4 (Istanbul)

The ship docked in Istanbul at about 1:00 pm on Monday and departed 8:00 pm the following day.  Knowing that we had extended time and given the many sights and activities that interested the two of us, I decided to splurge on a private guide.  A most excellent decision!  Burcu Tokgaz was pleasant and knowledgable; she paid attention to what I had communicated both ahead of time via email and also once we met, so had a good idea of what interested us and how to interact with Amanda.  We were much more efficient as a result – moving from one activity to another was almost seamless and I am certain our experience was much richer as a result.  Amanda said it was like seeing Istanbul with a friend.

Burcu met us at the port as we disembarked from the ship.  We immediately took the tram to the Blue Mosque. We were hurrying a bit to get in between prayer times. The artwork is amazing and it was good to talk a little about Turkish Muslim traditions.  We were verbally pushed out the door when it was time for afternoon prayer.  Burcu pointed out that prayer times are determined by sunrise and sunset, so in the winter they are much closer together than in the summer.

Walking to the Blue Mosque, Amanda met the first of many Istanbul friends.  It turned out that Burcu was also an animal lover...

Both pictures above are of the Blue Mosque (details of which can be found here:, along with some lovely pictures)

We then moved on to Tokapi Palace, where is was very crowded since it would be closed to visitors the following day.  Again, we had to hurry and hustle a bit in order to see the parts that Burcu deemed most significant.  It was very clear we would have spent the greater part of our time waiting in lines had it not been for her licensed tour guide badge and her knowledge of the place.  While I remain skeptical of the literal accuracy, I was still impressed by the religious relics on display, the staff of Moses and David’s sword among them.  We concluded our time at the palace with a visit to the museum shop – Amanda looked at lots of jewelry and so this took a while.

 a short respite prior to going to the Museum shop - Burcu is seated with Amanda.

For the last task of Monday, Burcu delivered us to Les Arts Turcs II (, where I met Ali & Betul for my marbling lesson.  It was helpful again having Burcu for the transition. They were so very hospitable – feeding Amanda and providing her with Internet access while I was doing the class session. (They were also very generous in presenting her with one of their handmade tiles at the end of the evening, as a "reward for her patience".)  And they even drove us back to ship at the end. I loved, loved, loved my time with Betul and Ali as I learned Ebru marbling (and have shown pictures in the previous post).  Betul's method of teaching was to demonstrate the technique for each of several designs: tulip, daisies, rose, chrysanthemum, tree and then have me try to copy.  

Tuesday, our second day, we met Burcu a little later than 9 am and walked to the Dolmabahce palace (, the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire at its end, and also used by Ataturk during the early years of the Republic.  I enjoyed this one much more than Topkapi, mostly because we were seeing living areas with furniture rather than exhibits.

From the palace we took a tram to Hagia Sophia (pronounced "eye-ya"; The building was first an early Christian church.  When it became a mosque in the mid-1400s, the Muslims painted over the Christian mosaics, but did not destroy them. The building is now a museum with the artwork of both religious traditions visible.  Unfortunately Amanda had an unpleasant reaction to Hagia Sophia.  She enjoyed seeing the beautiful early mosaics depicting Jesus, Mary, and angels, and appreciated the architecture and even the Muslim calligraphy and decorative elements, but did not like that it had been turned into a museum.  To her this felt like desecration.  The final straw was when Burcu asked if she wanted to make a wish – I never did learn the source of this tradition, but saw there was a line at some element.  Amanda felt this was truly desecration in that neither Christians nor Muslims would believe in wishing… So Amanda needed to leave abruptly. She went out with Burcu while I went upstairs and saw mosaics and close-up pictures of mosaics.

Above and below are my pictures of close-up pictures that were on display.  My little camera is not powerful enough to capture the mosaics this well.  (In the picture above this one, you get an idea of the height - this depiction of Mary is in the top center.)

We then returned to Ali & Betul to pick up my now-dry marbling and to purchase a few additional items.

I purchased Betul's casebound book partly because I very much like the paper cut-out pasted on top of the marbling.  She sells her works through Etsy, if anyone of my readers is interested.

I especially liked Burcu's choice for lunch – Caferaga Medresesi (Community Art CafĂ©,, an art/craft school where we had a private room with artwork to enjoy and an excellent traditional Turkish meal.  Notice Amanda and Burcu walking arm in arm down the narrow entryway - I would never have found this place.
Amanda had “Turkish ravioli”, filled with chicken and a having a yogurt based sauce – she not only said it was delicious, but had 2 servings!  Burcu and I both had the same food (she also is vegetarian): lentil soup followed by an egg & peppers dish (a little similar to a scrambled omelet) followed by stuffed vegetables that were a bit spicy hot, but not burning - just a comfortable flavor that let me know it was there.  The staff were  wonderfully attentive and the manager treated us to halva for dessert, which we all shared.
 Our next-to-last tourist stop of the day was the Basilica Cistern (, the largest of many cisterns (water collection devices) the Romans built under Istanbul. It is much bigger and more impressive than I’d imagined and could have been a very short visit, but we took time to dress up and get posed photos taken.

Above, one small part of this cavernous cistern.  Below, Roman recycling: the head of Medussa, originally a decorative element on top of a column, is now upside down and services as a column's support (and would have been submerged when the cistern was full).

And, finally, much to Amanda's pleasure, on to the Grand Bazaar, where there are in excess of 4000 vendors along labyrinthine passageways.  Here again it was very helpful to have Burcu’s contacts and knowledge.  Amanda wanted jewelry and scarf and obtained both in pleasant relaxing situations.  Presumably we paid reasonable prices, we enjoyed social cups of tea with proprietors and were able to sit, as well as visit just a little – most pleasant interactions!  Amanda now has a lovely Turkish silk scarf and a necklace that is just right.

At 6:30 Burcu delivered us to the ship and we said our good-byes.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Paper arts in Europe

I have been reading a most informative and interesting book on the history of paper making by Dard Hunter. I appreciate the opportunity to make connections between my own paper making experiences and the techniques and vocabulary provided in the book. Hunter wrote the book in the late 30s/early 40s. It is a most thorough and scholarly work.
Reading it has also provided context for my paper experiences here in Europe.
Roberto Mannino in Rome makes beautiful paper.  (His website is, where you can learn a little about him and view his sculpture work, that I also was able to view up close.)  He has a Hollander beater and orders pulp and fibers from Carriage House in the US - one of the same places I use. I suspect that part of the purchase price I paid for his paper included shipping costs that I do not have. 

Some papers that I purchased from Roberto:
 The top pile of smaller sheets are sheets made of abaca and bamboo fibers.  I am turning them into a book of their own.
 He uses cotton, flax, abaca, and other plant materials for most of his paper and has a good eye for color and texture in his paper.  His sheets are well formed as well.  It was hard to decide among them for what I would purchase.
When Amanda and I visited Istanbul I took a class in Ebru, Turkish marbling.  I had arranged for the private lesson via the Internet and had my expectations exceeded, which is a lovely thing.  I spent almost 3 hours there, during which time Amanda was on their computer and was provided with a sandwich while she waited for me.  Betul, my instructor, does beautiful work, and did an excellent job of explaining her process as she demonstrated.  (See her webpage at Her method was to demonstrate a pattern and then have me create one.  We focused, as I had requested, on the floral patterns that are characteristic of Turkish marbling.  
This one was done by Betul.  She was very generous to share the demonstration pieces with me.

Both the one above and the one below were done by Betul.  Obviously she has had much more practice than I have had!
What I did learn:
  • She also started with carrageenan base
  • Paints are powdered natural pigments mixed with water
  • Add background with paintbrush-like brushes in stone pattern
  • Gelgit with single stylus (very similar to my initial process already)
  • Add drops of paint using styluses of varying diameters – this is key to the drawing of designs.  Put down small drops and then continue to build using additional drops in center – same or different colors.  Use smaller stylus (diameter of wire) for fine drawing.
  • The drawing techniques themselves I think I can get from books, especially now that I have seen it and practiced.
I only had two disappointments related to my marbling session.  The first is that I completely forgot to take photos documenting the process of creating the designs, although I do have written notes for when I get back stateside and can resume marbling.  The second was that Betul uses, at least for my session, a fairly cheap paper.  I found it interesting that she does not apply mordant to the paper.  I don't know if that is because of qualities in the pigments used or in the paper.  She did make a point of showing me that the pigments she uses begin as powder and, as she said, are natural minerals.
Here in Romania I have Razvan's paper, which is definitely visually appealing, but is very soft.  His paper is made from recycled paper only because he does not have a working beater, required for macerating either rags or plant fibers. The paper works well for computer printing - and we will be using it in the book on which we are collaborating, but does not lend itself to being used for drawing or writing.  I hope Razvan is able to take advantage of material I shared with him about beaters.  He needs a beater to be able to go the next step in making quality paper.

General Fulbright Impressions

Now, at the midpoint of my time here in Romania, I am feeling especially grateful to the Fulbright program and the support it receives from the US and Romanian governments.   A week ago we had the spring orientation and gathering where we officially met the 3 new Fulbrighters who have arrived in Romania for the next 5-6 months. I must say I am grateful that I chose to come for a full academic year.  In many respects I have only just learned enough of how to navigate both literally and figuratively in this country that now in this second term I get to relax and enjoy. At this point I am old friends with several of my American and Romanian colleagues and I cherish the time the Romanian Fulbright commission creates for us to spend time together. 
The formal orientation on Thursday was a program very similar to the one I heard in early October.  What a difference 4 months of living here has made in my perceptions as I listened to Embassy folks provide their briefings on the economics, politics, health & safety issues, etc relative to our being here.  Much of the information was received by me the first time with wide-eyed wonderment and it was difficult to process it all.  Now I am comfortable in this country and the same information had little if any emotional impact.  There were a few good reminders, however, of resources that are available to me.  I would like to investigate the Embassy library, for example.
The fun part of the gathering occurred on Friday as we traveled to Sinai for a tour of Peles palace - definitely over the top in its opulence, but I so admire the craftsmanship and artistry!  Peles was the summer palace of the monarchy.  It was returned to the royal family in the late 1990's.  We even had a royal sighting!  While we were in the lobby awaiting the start of our tour, Prince Nicholas, grandson or King Mihai (who was forced to abdicate in the 1940s), came in and was discretely pointed out by our guide.
Already I am looking forward to a return visit to see some parts of the palace in more detail. I loved the carving in the first reception room, the Venetian mirrors that provide an illusion of infinite space, the rich woodwork, and the studio on the top floor.  Here are just a few pictures:

The approach to the palace...
 The front door
 An interior door
 The view from the terrace
 a house in Sinaia
A cross on a mountaintop, viewed from the bus as we traveled a little north of Sinaia to a winery.
After visiting the palace, we loaded ourselves into the bus and went to a winery, known for its sparkling wine.  After a brief tour of the process and wine tasting opportunity, we had lunch at the restaurant.  As it was served family style, all the vegetarians were seated at one end of the long table.  We observed that one fourth of our party of Fulbright associates, Americans and Romanians, are vegetarian.  The conversation was lively, the food was good.  What more could one ask?
Sunday after these activities, David and I traveled to Brasov to see Eli and to support his wife Anne, who was opening an exhibit of her paintings.  We had enough time to wander around Brasov for a bit before the reception.  I admit I am jealous of them for living in Brasov - it is a mountain town and so has much nicer scenery than Bucharest.

 David and Eli on Europe's narrowest street
 A fortress
Detail from a door of the Black Church
 One of the gates of Brasov
 The synagogue in Brasov
 The Hollywood-type sign all lit up, in case one is so very confused to not know one's location...
A few of Anne's sketches - I love her choice of displaying these clothing sketches as hanging on the line.  Clothes drying on lines are ubiquitous in Romania - I don't know that anyone owns an electric dryer.
And the invitation Anne sent out, with one of her portraits shown.

Last week I participated in a research seminar hosted at another University: A.S.E., The Academy of Economic Studies, which has a large department in Business Administration.  I was invited to the seminar at which several doctoral students were presenting preliminary work toward their dissertations on the topic of Corporate Social Entrepreneurship.  I titled my remarks, "The Psychological Underpinnings of Corporate Social Entrepreneurship".  I believe my part was well received, I appreciated listening to the students and was able to contribute some useful feedback, and afterwards a group of faculty members took me to lunch, where we had a most enjoyable time.  This kind of connectivity is fundamental to what the Fulbright program is all about.

I am planning several activities and/or collaborations with Fulbright colleagues:
In April, there is an Appalachian-Carpathian conference.  I will participate with Eli and others (I was able to meet some of his colleagues on Sunday and we did quite a bit of talking and planning) in the conference itself and will also present a bookbinding workshop.  Some time later this spring, I will also collaborate with Karen to provide a bookbinding workshop to her students in Cluj. I received helpful information from Ilya regarding an invitation I received from some folks at SNSPA about being a journal editor.  Again I will say that I am most grateful for the connections I am making through the Fulbright program.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mediterranean Adventure - Part 3 (Ephesus)

From Athens the ship went to Izmir, Turkey's second largest port. After discussing with Amanda, she decided to sleep in a bit and do some exploring of Izmir on her own.  On the recommendation of the cruise director, I chose to take one of the guided tours today, as he had said that public transportation to Ephesus and back was not as available as with the other locations.  We started out at 8:30 and the guide used the 50 minutes to Ephesus to provide a little background on Turkish history and specifically some history of the town of Ephesus.  I found an especially nice website here:, if you are interested in learning more.

 different colors/types of marble...

 resident stray cat - this picture for Amanda

 Looking down the marble road to the library, the most photographed piece of Ephesus.

 Mosaic work, still beautiful after almost 2000 years!

 Yes, even the latrines are interesting - a communal and social activity, complete with running water for both moving waste along and for washing oneself and also a fountain for providing more pleasant visual and auditory stimuli.

Ephesus was a mix of pagan and Jewish religions that largely converted to Christianity during the peak period of the city.

 Footprint directing travelers to the brothel...

I thoroughly enjoyed walking around Ephesus, but feel I wasted money on tour: I was rushed and unable to see several things I wanted to stop at;I  rarely heard what tour guide said and when I did it was little different from what I could read by myself.  There were a number of locations I would have explored more thoroughly had there been opportunity.

At 12:30 we boarded bus again and went to “handicraft center”, where we learned a little about Turkish carpets, obtaining silk threads, and the hand knotting process.  It was certainly interesting, but I would have preferred more time in Ephesus.  I did especially like a couple of carpets that were called Kurdish style – more colorful and a little more primitive in design than others, but still well out of my price range.

 Silkworm cocoons are soaked in water, then a brush grabs several strands, which get wound together to make silk thread.  Many, many cocoons are required to make a spool of thread.

 Each thread is hand knotted.  For most carpets only one person (woman) works on it in order to keep the same kind of tension.  They typically work for a couple of hours then break...

3:00 + - back at ship, with almost 2 hours to spare…
Amanda had gone out and walked about in Izmir by herself and bought a few souvenirs.