By Heidi Trautmann
Block printing(yazma) – a fascinating art – woodblock printing originating from China around 200 BC, they say in the Han Dynasty, was used to print designs or scripts on textiles, later on paper. In Europe printing with blocks was introduced in 1300 for textile design; printed wall paper became fashionable in France in the same period; and around 1400 books were reproduced by cutting the entire page into a wood block, a method used before the letters became mobile.
It is so comforting to hear and see that this old traditional art is still being continued. Veliye Martı, a master of this craft came from Istanbul to Nicosia on the invitation of Kadir Kaba, art photographer and admirer of her art, to show us her work and the basic principles of the craft of making the blocks and applying them onto a textile surface. The exhibition and demonstration was opened on Friday May 25 at the Eaved House/Saçaklı Ev in Nicosia by Mrs Gülin Küçük,the wife of our Prime Minister Irsen Küçük, and she brought in her wake a train of women rather moved and excited by the display of beautiful curtains, dresses, vests, cushions and sheets displayed all around the place, covering the walls and laid out on bridal chests, the traditional patterns of which have served Veliye Martı as one of the role models in her art. Shawls and aprons were tried on and the Minister of Health paraded as mannequin.
Kadir Kaba who is the curator of the exhibition, and his wife Sevilay and many guests were wearing samples of Veliye Martı’s art, a vest or a dress, a T-Shirt or as shawl. Many artists had come to learn something new, also some local sculptors. We admired the different wood blocks, the patterns cut out with sharp tools, knives or even using rotary shapers, at least 3 cm deep. The wood used for the wooden blocks, Veliye Martı explained, is limewood but at least two years old, otherwise it would crack when being shaped. But, and this was new to me, she has also used styropor foam blocks for the very big blocks or stamps and they looked as if the patterns were shaped by using a hot tool.
Veliye used to be a theatre dress maker and one day she went to learn the fascinating craft from Mehmet Hamdi Eyuboğlu at Kalamış Yazmaları workshop in Istanbul and for 25 years now, she makes her own blocks. In 2008, Martı founded her own workshop “Martı Yazma Atölyesi” in Kucukayasofya, Sultanahmet. In addition to traditional Turkish Cypriot motifs from bridal chests, she creates all kinds of motifs such as figures from the shadow theatre, Karagöz and Hacivat, Zenne, Karadenizli, Greek doctor, Pişekar, Beb Ruhi and Şahmaran.
We must be grateful that there still exist some people who are bound to tradition and execute and teach old craft with enthusiasm and pride.
The exhibition is still on until June 1, viewing times at the Eaved House are government office hours, i.e. until 14.30 hrs except Thursdays until 15.30.
Should you have missed the exhibition or you would like to see some more, please visit her website VeliyeozdemirMartı.blogspot.com or visit her workshop on one of your trips to Istanbul.