When I met Master Kenan and started to talk with him, he reminded me of that roughneck but humble and respectful Turkish craftsmen or taxi driver movie characters. He was experienced, overwhelmed but was stili holding his head high. His father came from Samsun in 1940′s. They settled in Vefa. He was bom there; one of the oldest district of İstanbul. Both his father and he were leather processor (leathermen) “He was the best in leather shaving. He knows leather well” “I recruited in 1970. Short after I retumed, I came to the Grand Bazaar. There was the bed maker; Master Bekir. As I was working as his apprentice, I used to come to help my father in the evenings as well. Ileamed tanning there.” “Tanning?”
“Tanning is the process of making the animal skin usable. W e were doing leather and welt work. Welt is the skin of a buffalo or cattle.” “There were many Gypsies in Cebeci Inn in those years. There was Sister Sultan. There were the bed-sitters where the workers stayed. Sister Sultan used to wash their dothes and cook for them. She used to come until last year. She klssed wall right there in her last visit. It was the wall of her former house ~hich got destroyed in the fire” “In 70′s the market was so active. Stacks of leather would come with trucks. However, it was worthless for it was abundant. We were working hard but never had a lot of money. In those years, Yugoslavians visited here. W e prepared leather for bags and sandals. It lasted til! 1978. Then I switched the business to leather coloring. I colored welt for belts. We were coloring welts by hand by rubbing them with velvet. Leathers for purses were colored in tanks. They now cal! it wheel coloring.” “We would sink the leathers into tanks and soak them. After we took them out, we would lay them on marbles. We would remove the carrions and water from leather’s back and dries them by hanging them on hooks. Then, we would polish them after mailing.” He told every detail very quickly for he was doing the same business for years. It was hard for me to catch up. Moreover, I was trying to understand the process. “Master, what is canion?” “After the leathers come out from the tanneıy, stili some chapped meat stays on them. We remove them with an istikar.” “What is an istikar then?” He sl10wed me a shaıp knife, half stuck into a wooden plate, and said “Istikar is what this knife is called.” “Well, what does this “mailing and polishing” mean?
“Glazing machine. It is nearly 75-80 years old. A Greek Master had built it in here. It stays in here since then. It has a 10 horsepower engine. The brand is Ganunak. It was made of a mi:x of wood and cast materials. The mounts are retaining ring and bali. It is completely hand-made and one of a kind. They built anather one by imitating this one but I don’t know what happerred to it. I hope I can give this machine to a museum before I die. However, if I die before I could, it is my last will for you to take it to a museum” Then, he got up and staıted the machine. The 4.5-5 meters long and 2 meters high machine started with a loud noise. A hanelle with a thick piece of glass at the end began to heave and beat the pieces of leather that Master Kenan had put under. Then, he showed me the shining leather and was able to explain the entire working process of the machine.
I wanted to know more about the leather, so he continued to explain, but this time with the attitude of a knowledgeable teacher, and spoke more schematically. “Goat and sheep leathers come in bundles. Bundles get opened and basically the process is: they get sunk into tanks, damperred and colored. These dyes are chemical, ochre and madden dyes. Then, they are laid on marbles. The carrions on the back and veins on the front get grinded and removed with istikar.” “Leathers are stretched onto ropes and hooks in pergolas and get dried. This drying process takes a whole day. Aft:er drying, they get shined with machine power and iı·oned. Shining the leather means tightening, spreading and smoothing it.” “After all these procedures, leathers, that are ready to be used and cut, are sent to binders, bag, purse and sandal seliers and launched into the market. Binding is only possible with sheep’s skin. Cowhide leathers, namely leather for belts, again aıTive in bundles. We dampen the surface gently and remove the membrane with a shaıp knife called istikar. This is done so that the leather can absorb the dye and breatl1e the air in. Removing the membrane opens up the pores on the leather. The leather is ironed by the machine and gets dyed to the preferred color. Aft:er tl1e vamishing and polishing, the leatl1er is ready for the market.” “These are old Ottoman embroidery. Nowadays, they are all machine made. We used to be able to do only 15 pieces a day. Now however, they are manufactured in large numbers in factories.”
It was interesting to see the amount of hard labor the beit we wear only required. With Master Kenan, we talked about the working hours and old days of the Cebeci Inn as well. “We used to work between the hours of 6:30am -7:00am to 8:30pm-9:00pm. Inns were not a paıt of the Bazaar back then. This district was a neighborhood. In the evenings, we were getting out by jumping over the roof. There was brother Nazım. He was the official guard here. Then he worked asa concierge at Astarcı Inn.” “In early days there was a bed maker, brother Hayri. He provided a lot of help deaning tl1is inn. At one time, he appeared in newspapers as “the tax champion of the Grand Bazaar” “I do not do much nowadays. There is not much business either. We were making binding leathers to bind Koran. Now, I make them for Suleymaniye Libraıy. All old books are bound with leather. Whenever they ask, I get it done. I also make hand made and vat dyes. I dye coats, bags and shoes. Namely, I take old leatl1er goods and retum themas new. Lately I’m just waiting, waiting only … ”
Master Altan kept on talking while he was repairing a sweater in his hand. When he said: “My father was a very disciplined man. One day, I got angry with him and came to Master Rüstem”, I asked him about the old masters. “Mr.Şükrü was my father’s uncle. He was an excellent master. Then, my father Baki Örme, Knitter Seyfettin and Master Rüstem Görmez. His shop was right next to the store numbered 1 in Yağlıkçılar. His son, Ertaç Öget, was also a knit- ter. His step son is stil! a knitter but not in the Bazaar.” “I worked with master Rüstem til! I was recruited for my rnilitary service in 1959. After I came back, I opened a smail shop in Galatasaray. As the business declined, I went to Germany in the first month of 1964. I worked as a laborer in a textile factory. I retumed in 1981. I retired in here from Social Security. In 1983, I again restarted knitting. I worked with Knitter Mustafa in Osmanbey. Mr.Şükrü asked me to work together and we became partners. In 1990, I came back to the Bazaar. In 1992, Mr.Şükrü passed away. We, Metin and I, kept working. May Gad be pleased with Mr.Şükrü? Thanks to Mr.Şükrü that we can still eam money through his name.”
Yes, I was feeling the same things again. These two people had the same characteristic with other masters. First of all, they were at peace with themselves, and of course with their surroundings as well. Both were humble and broadminded. Şükrü Örücü was not only a master whom they respected, but he became a brand name. Just as people come to the Grand Bazaar because its name is well-known, same people visit them just for the name of Şükrü Örücü. “Master, are there any famous names among the people whose dothes you repaired? “My memory is weak but I remember the govemor Hayri Kozakçıoğlu and singer Özdemir Erdoğan. Özdemir Erdo- ğan’s jacket was wom out because of his guitar. We repaired Şank Tara’s clothes, too. He smoked too much. I knitted the holes caused by cigarette bums. There were professors and other famous people as well but we clidn’t know who they were for they would send their items with their drivers.”
“We start to work at 8:30a.m and finish at 5 p.m. everyday. It is a tiring job. It makes both your eyes and nerves tired. You try to do a perfect job and focus. You work with a thinner thread than usual. You get stressed because you try to repair the item without leaving any marks on it. Sametimes my back aches !ike I got beat up with a stick, but I know it is caused by the stress of trying to do my best.” Master Metin carried on the conversation and said “You can not look straight to a job more than fıve minutes. You take deep breaths, look araund you and then keep on working. Many times Master Altan had thrown the work he was working onto the ground and went away to calm down. Every time you have a new design. You need toknit according to different designs. Master Altan is the best in this job. He is my master but sametimes even he has difficult times. You have to work for 5-6 hours. When we need to, we go to the restroom that is far from here instead of the one which is close by in order to walk and clear our heads.” Master Altan kept on talking, “However, I get a lot of advice from Metin. He asks me for advice too. He fınished many items that I started toknit but couldn’t continue.” Master Altan got married two times. He had three children from his first wife, and one child from the second one. “My age did not allow me to have more” said he srniling and looking at me above his glasses. I asked how the relationship between him and Master Metin is. Metin answered instead of him: “We have been together for twenty years. I have three kids too. I eamed d1eir bread from this job. Brother Altan is my master. W e are !ike father and son. We get along well with everyone here, !et alone with eachother. Everyone loves us here.” When I asked the seeret of this life that he eamed by hanclicrafts, Master Altan answered: “This job is fruitful. It requires craftsmanship and elbow grease”
“In our heaıts, we hope each job to be fruitful. When the job comes, we first analyse it. In same cases, I told my customers not give the item to us cause it would leave a mark and not look nice. Or I would tel! them that they have to pay 20 Tl. (Turkish liras), and they can buy a brand new one for that price. You should be honest to the customer.” said Master Altan. We were about to fınish our conversation. Meanwhile, neighbour tradesmen were visiting, telling jokes and having smail chats. We were having this conversation in front of a smail shop in the midelle of a walking zone. Lasdy, I asked about the old and new customers, and people. “For the customers, the job seems !ike just ‘repairing a smail hale” but they don’t know how it is done and how hard it actually is. When you wam them about the possibilty of the remaining stitching marks, they fırst say “no problem” but then, they reprove. In the past, people had much more respect towards eachod1er than taday. Nowadays, when you get on a boat, you see a man sitting on a place for two people, only thinking about him. On the other hand, the Grand Bazaar is stili beautiful, still elite. There is stilllove and respect in people’s hearts. This place is !ike a department of a big mail, everyone is transparent. Even the foreigners are different. A customer comes, you tel! the truth, he/she gets angry; you give him/her a price, he/she gets angry again. If you don’t want us to do the job, don’t bring it to us. No need to insult, right?”
I asked him about the latest items he knitted and if there was anything interesting among them. “Firsdy, I need to say that a smail job could be a shame for the knitter whereas a big one could be a success. W e knitted lots of items. Dresses, trousers, jackets, sweaters, shiıts and alsa car chairs, blankets … Once, Günseli Başar, the beauty queen of Turkey, brought her slippers which were made of fabric on the top. I repaired them for her. Even tom shoes were brought to us. We smiled and tried to explain that it was impossible to knit them.” Neither Master Altan’s nar Metin’s children will be knitters. When they finish doing this job, the signboard that says “Knitter Master Şükrü” will be put down. Theirs is a life that passes by knitting smail and big holes. However, !ike other masters, their peaceful and energetic characters are fed by their jobs that combine production and creation.