where it all began...
It all began in a desperate search for a jeweler who spoke English in the Grand Bazaar; his name was Eren Özler, and according to the information I'd gained from a colleague, he worked at Imam Ali Han just outside the southeast Süleymaniye entrance of the massive ancient shopping mall.
I was on deadline for an article I was writing for The Guide Istanbul, a fashion / food / culture magazine covering the city's endless opportunities for entertainment, and my task was to find and interview the best, most known and recognized jewelers of the Grand Bazaar. I didn't know which would be more difficult: interviewing the jewelers in my only basic knowledge of Turkish, or the initial task of navigating the bazaar.
As if living in an enormous foreign city where I didn't speak the language or blend in whatsoever didn't make my day-to-day operation grueling or exciting enough, I decided to roam deep into one of the world's oldest marketplaces, among the most intricate systems of commerce rooted in a time before the concept of paper money, vendors with relationships built over generations, asking the only questions in Turkish I knew how to ask like, "So, was your father a jeweler?"
In a situation like this, our expectations, our general conditioning if you grew up in Western society like I did, is that nothing could possibly go right. You're in a place you don't belong, everyone knows it, and you're going to embarrass yourself, and fail - go home. So when something short of that happens, when you're welcomed with open arms and endless cups of çay (Turkish tea), when you not only manage but get lost in talk about intellectual issues, and topics that are dear to your heart, in a mixture of only the basic words of your respective languages, you break the mold. You de-condition a little, your expectations change, you lighten up... and your wildest ideas and dreams begins to to seem possible.
This is what happened to me that day in Eren's shop.
An hour-long conversation turned into an invitation to come back, which evolved into my taking weekly lessons from Eren usta (in Turkish, usta means master, and it is custom to address one so). Months later, I couldn't get enough of making jewelry and started sneaking in on weekends and staying later than the man with the keys to our gate was willing to wait for me.
Traveling, living where you don't think you belong, learning a new language, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, and then surviving, communicating, making friends, making people laugh and smile, building relationships, being successful in things you didn't believe you could do; this breaks the mold, and it makes you believe in yourself and your crazy ideas.
Eren usta did more than teach me how to make jewelry, he helped me break my mold. He taught me patience and dedication, the building blocks for entrepreneurship. During my days in his shop, I took life a little less seriously, to my benefit, and began to dream up a wild idea.
Since, I've moved back to my roots in Humboldt County, California. I currently make and sell my Ay Su Jewelry collections at Whiplash Curve in Old Town Eureka.
The article that started it all...
Handicraft in Istanbul /// The Guide Istanbul :
full article at www.theguideistanbul.com