Aysegul Turedi Ozen who has lived and worked in Eskisehir for 37 years, is the consultant of the City Fire Ceramic Gallery, which was established a while ago. The artist's exhibition titled "Woman's Hand" was also the first exhibition of the gallery. We had a pleasant conversation with Ozen, who looks at life with enthusiasm and reflects this joy on her works.
Assoc. Prof. Mutlu BASKAYA
How did you start ceramics? You are a graduate of MU Faculty of Fine Arts Ceramics Department but the time you’ve enrolled in the school its’ name was State School of Applied Fine Arts (DTGSYO), right? What’s the contribution of this Bauhaus rooted education?
Anatolian lands inhold splendid source of ceramics in itself. My story of getting more familiar with this source began when I took the aptitude tests of State School of Applied Fine Arts in 1981 and won the Ceramics Department in the third rank. Our school name was changed when I was a 4th grade student. Thus in 1985, with its’ new name, I graduated as the top scoring student from the Marmara University, Faculty of Fine Arts Ceramics Department. I took very important lessons on ceramics – the art of earth – from the lecturers of our school that was giving an art education with a Bauhaus-rooted program. My student life was deeply influenced by those questions such as ‘Is art for art’s sake? Is art for people’ and the answers given to these questions. During my 4 years of education, I have learned to give answers to these kind of questions; to look at/view nature, events and problems from the broadest perspective, respect the traditions, and the rules of producing designs/works that bear the traces of present and the rhetorics of future. Bauhaus-rooted education is a long-running learning method and I can say that its’ contributions to me is getting familiar with myself, my surrounding and the society I live in, being aware of those happening around me, creating a design/a work through inspiration and interiorization of everything and every view I encounter and this way exhilarating my efforts.
As an academician who also worked in the educational institution sin USA, which level do you think the ceramics education in Turkey is at?
Back in the years when I was just a student, I want to an education institute in France Limoges for a one -month internship. And back in my years of being an academician which I began as a research associate, I continued my education and ceramic workshop studies in two schools in America for a two-year period. I also visited the ceramics factories, ceramic materials retail shops and artist workshops in these countries. By this means, I got the opportunity to carry out many researches, tracing and studies on education and production of ceramics. Education systems in Europe, America and Turkey was showing many differences in terms of many aspects such as educators, methods of teaching a lesson, workshops, disciplines of working in a workshop, application studies, evaluation criteria, materials etc. When I look back now, 35 years have passed over these what I’m mentioning. Where we stand now, sludge as a material is known to improve physical, mental and hand skills in a very positive way and thus ceramics draws attention of, known and loved by many people of all ages from young and old alike. We see now that ceramics education is not limited only with educational institutions. There are amateur and professional ceramics education courses being opened. In brief; ceramics education began to take place in a wide range of education programs from kindergartens to universities. Along with these, all kinds of event of academic and scientific quality included in ceramics education programs of higher education institutions such as national and international exhibitions, symposiums, workshops, congresses, conferences, biennials, triennials etc. and all types written resources like books, articles, theses etc. have great contributions to ceramics education in Turkey. Where we stand now, as I mentioned above, I see the diversified education systems regarding the ceramics education in Turkey, sometimes in a pessimistic way and sometimes in a hopeful way. My wish for education of ceramics to be continued at competent hands.
Based on this question, what’s the place of Turkish ceramic art in the world do you think?
The place of our ceramic art in the world has been determined by the connoisseurs of ceramics and their outstanding efforts they’ve put forth for years for the sake of ceramics and success each more valuable than other. As a result of these efforts and successes, they have made great contributions to Turkish ceramic art’s recognition both in our country and in the world. They have been very good examples for the generations coming after them. I wish peace for the soul of our connoisseurs who dedicated their life to ceramic art and who are not with us here today. And I wish a healthy life for our connoisseurs who continue to be examples for us with their works and I thank them a thousand times.
We’re in a period of time where all kinds of written, verbal and visual information are being transmitted fast from continents to continents thanks to the technological developments. And due to this, as usual in all areas, precious developments, innovations, changes, researches and studies can be carried out also in education and application areas of ceramics. New names are showing up every passing day due to the graduations from ceramics departments and internationally contextualized events on ceramics, successful events are being organized, invites are being received and honorable achievements are being succeeded. And this shows that Turkish ceramic art is in a very gratifying, very exciting and pretty good situation in the world.
Which ceramic event impressed you the most until now?
As an answer to your question; I would like to say a multidisciplinary education program as an example which has impressed me deeply since then that I won’t forget for my whole life and which’s comprised of theoretical and applicational workshop studies including also ceramics. The learning through art project study that took place in the Lifelong Learning – Erasmus Intensive Program that’s supported by the European Union. It has been organized in Norway (15th-30th June 2009, Yksnøya Island) and Turkey (11th-26th June 2010, Bozcaada) with the participation of 50 students having educational, communications, theatre, dance and plastic art educations and 12 academicians/artists in 4 universities chosen from Britain, Latvia, Norway and Turkey. And one of the workshop leaders in the ceramic workshop studies of this project was me from Turkey. As an educator/artist, I shared my traditional and contemporary ceramic experiences with students in theoretically and practically. In the workshop studies carried through practically; the diversity of forming possibilities have been communicated making use of the plastic characteristics of clay and what was desired is them to think creatively and push their limits with natural-artificial textures and materials. What has been asked for is concepts like turning, replacing, transforming, transferring and communication to be expressed through dance, drama, education, communication, literature, ceramics and land art. Workshop studies were completed in two weeks and the contributions and impacts of ceramic art to education and art education have been tried to be demonstrated through a multidisciplinary approach. At the end of the workshop studies; with the written outcome evaluations taken from the students and educators, ceramic sludge’s positive, altering, transforming and thought-provoking factors on human mind and body when used in art field, have been put into report. Besides being a quite successful education program in terms of its’ purpose, operation and outcome, it was also very impressive for being an event.
Could you please tell us about the establishment phase of the Fire of the City Ceramics Gallery in Eskisehir which you are the advisor of?
Eskisehir Odunpazari Municipality is organizing the International Eskisehir Odunpazari Ceramic Firing Techniques Workshop since 2015. I was invited as a Guest Artist in 2017, as an Honored Guest in 2018 and as an advisor in 2019 and 2022 to this workshop. (The workshop has been suspended in 2020 and 2021 for pandemic restrictions) The workshop is being organized as an event area in the Historic Odunpazari Square where people also can visit whenever they want and watch ceramic glazing and firing techniques. Artists participating in the workshop are glazing their works made with biscuit firing during the workshop. They’re turning them into splendid works of art in the fire of the city with firing techniques like raku, unglazed raku, saggar, paper kiln, horsehair, copper matte. During the workshop that goes like a festival, visitors of all ages are making linear decorations on sludge tails prepared on ceramic desks and experiencing the excitement of shaping the sludge on sludge lathe. This year the sixth of the International Eskisehir Odunpazari Ceramic Firing Techniques Workshop has been organized. With the workshop, hundreds of ceramic works of many local and foreign estimable ceramic artists, is added to Odunpazari Municipality’s collection.
The thought of collecting and exhibiting these works under a single roof, in other words establishing a gallery, has turned into an ever-growing desire and necessity after every workshop. Odunpazari Mayor Att. Kazim Kurt didn’t remain deaf to this matter and we decided for the place he showed in the Arasta Bazaar to be the “Fire of the City Odunpazari Ceramics Gallery”. The building has been a restaurant and an hotel until December 2021 so we began working with a young, hard-working and experienced administrative and technical staff to turn this place into a living gallery.
Fire of the City Odunpazari Ceramic Gallery is comprised of the ground, the first and the second floor. In the ground floor there are the Basic Ceramic Workshop where guests of all ages to be expected to visit the gallery, experience the excitement of making acquainted with the sludge, ahead of it the depot where kilns, ceramic related tools and materials are in and on the first and second floors there are the exhibition rooms hallway where Odunpazari Fire of the City Ceramic Workshop’s collection works are being exhibited, the Private Exhibition Room where artists and novice artists are allowed to open current-periodic exhibitions and the Artist Rooms which we thought and organized like a mini private ceramic workshop where a ceramic artist will be able to easily create his/her work/works. There is the Sorkun Room where people can closely see some examples of the traditional value potteries of Sorkun Neighborhood (village) of Eskisehir’s Mihaliccik District and witness their story of making accompanied with photos. While our visitors are touring the gallery, they will almost be like on a walk around the Fire of the City Workshop environment in the rooms separately colored with the shades of fire and earth and witness the excitements gone through during that phase. I’m proud of being the voluntary-based art advisor of the ceramic gallery which I believe that it’s a first both by means of the workshop and being a living gallery. Let Odunpazari Fire of the City Ceramic Gallery be a gift to our beautiful city of Eskisehir.
What do you think are the privileges of living in Eskisehir as a ceramic artist?
Eskisehir is the city where I stepped into academic profession as a research associate in Anadolu University Faculty of Fine Arts Department of Ceramic Arts in 1986 and retired of my duty as a professor in 2008. I wasn’t born in this city but I have grown up in this city for 37 years. Meanwhile, I witnessed the growth, the development, the change of this city. This city has always added beautiful things to my memories, values, experiences, delights and most importantly my artistic thoughts. With its’ genial, intellectual, rightminded, sensitive people, with its’ museums, parks, gardens, streets, avenues, living spaces and universities, a clean, neat, safe city bearing artistic/cultural/historical traces in the middle of steppe. I’m one of the lucky ones who enjoy the privilege of living in Eskisehir. In short, a splendid “Metropolis” worth living and aging with every state and every aspect. It’s also a great advantage of it being at a close distance of transportation to metropolises like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bursa for artistic nourishment. On the other hand, my teachers and colleagues each more estimable than each other in my working environment in Anadolu University, my husband and my sons who are Eskisehir locals, all contributed great and very significant values to my life passing with art. I would like to express my sincerest thanks to all those who make this such beautiful city.
Contemporary ceramic art and local pottery are two different concepts from each other but as in Sorkun example, what can we do to support local pottery as a folk art?
Yes, contemporary ceramic art and local pottery are two different concepts, two different areas from each other; you’re right. I would like to talk about the things that can be done to support local pottery with examples over the studies I made. The information our lecturer Prof. Gungor Guner told about traditional pottery in our classes and his conferences, have impressed me so much. I also made some researches about some pottery villages as soon as I graduated from the school. In my venture of educatorship that began in 1986 in Anadolu University, my master’s thesis’s subject was Our Pottery in Some of the Pot Production Places in the Aegean Region. Then I visited the places where I witnessed the pottery in person and wrote out articles about them. Afterwards I wrote a book titled the Traditional Pottery Art including all my information and photos in it. I focused on Eskisehir Sorkun village’s pottery which carries on the tradition from mother to daughter in a master-apprentice relationship. I did the text authorship of a book titled the “Sorkun Pot”. Many of my conferences at home and abroad was about Sorkun Pots/Potters. I organized tours to the village and also tried to assist on the promotion of the village. I organized a room in the Fire of the City Ceramic Exhibition under the name Sorkun Room. I frequently use Sorkun sludge and pots in my artistic works. Some of these works of mine took place in the museums and collections abroad. I also included works which I made with Sorkun pot and Sorkun sludge in many of my personal exhibitions. In my life of art of 41 years, I organized my 26th personal exhibition as the first exhibition of the Exhibition Room of the Eskisehir Odunpazari Fire of the City Ceramic Gallery. I built the pot forms coming out of our Sorkun local potter women who shape their earth for the sake of craft, into the artworks I made and I presented these compositions to the taste of the audience with my exhibition I named the “Hand of Woman”.
In addition, I participated as a workshop educator in the “Kinik Village Summer School Project 2008” workshop as a workshop educator in 2007, as a guest artist and workshop leader in the “Kinik Village Design in the Rurals Event” Workshop Event and Festival in 2018 and as a jury member in the Menemen Skillful Hands Pottery Competition as part of the 1st International Menemen Pottery Festival organized between 07th-09th October 2022 in Izmir Menemen. Apart from personal initiatives, municipalities, universities, private institutions and organizations have also a lot to do about supporting the local pottery. And I become happy when I see written, verbal and practical publications, workshops and symposiums etc. made on local pottery. These are very valuable efforts not to underestimate at all. And I wish there will be more of these kinds of efforts.
We know that you are also interested in music and played folklore in your youth apart from visual arts. Would you also tell our readers about it?
I would like to answer this question with a bit more examples. Yes, I think the period I lived through learning and teaching folkloric dances in my childhood and youth, was one of my most precious achievements. This love and interest continued by learning ballroom dances in my later ages. Besides, music is another amateur area where I listen to in my childhood and make an effort to sing in my current age. I try to sing as a chorist and soloist amateurishly in Turkish Classical and Turkish Folk Music choruses. I play snare drum, drum and accordion in a very simplistic way. Again beginning with my childhood, my interest and admiration to our handicrafts persist with a never-ending love. I like knitting, lacemaking, sewing, embroidering very much. With a great love and joy, I like to design some of my clothing and accessories such as dresses, jerseys, vests, bags, jewelries etc. especially with special fabrics and materials leaving a mark on me and I like to use these with pleasure.
Let’s end up the interview with a personal question. You juice up every environment you’re in with your joy and sense of humor. Where do you feed this life energy from?
I thank you for your kind words. The source I feed my life energy is me feeling young and being cheerful all the time. I always admire these lyrics of a song “Be cheerful to stay young and thus to enjoy this world…” My life energy comes from my family, my husband, my children who have great efforts on me, my students, friends, teachers who bring meaning to my life and feeds and supported by my several hobbies. And this makes me energetic and dynamic all the time. These energies piling up on layers in years, come out by themselves as joy and humor when they find the right place and setting.