Tag Archives: Turkey

Iznik: Ottoman Ceramic Design at PSTA

The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (based in East London) runs a number of practical short-courses. I recently attended the Iznik: Ottoman Ceramic Design course where a small group of students learnt how to apply focussed and delicate brush strokes to ceramic tiles and plates. The class firstly taught us that concentration and a calm approach is key to producing the best results. We spent some time practising small lines and swirls. I honestly found this a little difficult, as I am used to applying deliberate and highly pressure movements through my tools, be it pens or brushes. As a result my brush strokes using ink came out quite bulky 😐 This technique called for dainty elegance for sure.

We soon moved on to experimenting with applying glaze to tiles. The change of texture was stark and proved even more difficult to work with. However the tutor, Nooshin Shafiei (very much an expert in the art of ceramic design) was able to depose some tips and eventually we cracked on with our final pieces – large ceramic plates!

Designs were transferred on to the plates by applying red powder dye to the back of the paper and then tracing over the top so that the pattern was drawn with the powder only.

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

We chose designs from a beautiful book full of photographic examples of Iznik ceramics: Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey I chose the following design. I thought it was simple enough for my less than advanced skills but I soon learnt that even this was perhaps a little ambitious. In the following two sessions, conversation amongst students centred on one topic – the desire to make this final piece worthy of display in our own homes. The collective goal was to give it everything we had.

The various stages of my efforts are displayed below:

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA


Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

However, based on our tests on glazing tiles previously, it would not be until much later, once the plates had been fired that we would know exactly how our skills played out in reality…

Iznik ceramic plate design

Original plate that I was trying to replicate

Detail of Iznik ceramic plate design

Detail of Iznik ceramic plate design

The plate is now ready for it’s final coat of transparent glaze which will give it a shiny smooth surface.

Overall, the class was very enjoyable. I learnt new motif designs distinctive of the Iznik region within the Ottoman reign. I’ve not done much freehand, non-geometric art practice so this was definitely something new and challenging for me but I am very glad I decided to do it. The fellow students and the teacher Nooshin made it a very friendly environment with lots of interaction dispersed with the much appreciated tea-breaks (thanks for the biscuits Nooshin!).

I would highly recommend practical short-courses to anyone who either has a soft-spot for creativity, is looking for some inspiration, wants a break from their normal life routine or for the opportunity to meet new people. For further information on courses provided by the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts have a look on their website: http://www.psta.org.uk/openprogramme/

3D HADAR Table Lamp by Cyril Afsa

The Muqarnas is a feature of Islamic architecture that has inspired Cyril Afsa’s 3d Table lamp.

3D Hadar Lamp by Cyril Afsa


3D HADAR Lamp by Cyril Afsa

The muqarnas reminds me a little of a bee hive, as it appears to be a tessellation of geometric shapes that form a cave like structure with spatial depth. But the shapes used to form the muqarnas are a little more complicated and have what appears to be an infinite depth due to the various shapes used to form the pattern.

Cyril Afsa’s lamp design is a modern day realisation of the crafts based link to traditional Islamic art. An every day, and therefore very practical, object to which the Islamic aesthetics of the muqarnas is applied. Traditionally, elaborate patterns and designs would have been applied to nearly every kind of object encountered in the daily life of a resident in an Islamic land including but not limited to decanters, vases, plates, jewellery boxes as well as architectural monuments.

HADAR Lamp from Cyril Afsa on Vimeo.

The merger of the traditional application of an Islamic design with the modern process of 3D printing is an example of how digital technologies are entering the sphere of contemporary Islamic art. As can be seen in this example by Cyril Afsa, the results have amazing potential. The most significant aspect of utilising digital technology in producing these art works is the ability to attain a high level or accuracy – an accuracy that is required for implementing the various patterns that have become well-recognised in Islamic art.

There are some beautiful examples of  Muqarnas to be found in the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, as well as the Shah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Have a look at this page on wikipedia for more information and images of the above mentioned examples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muqarnas

Very interestingly, a fairly recent discovery has found that the muqarnas feature was incorporated in the archway over one of the entrances to the Divrigi mosque (Turkey) in such as way as to cast a shadow of a man.

Shadow of man reading cast by design in Divrigi Ulu mosque, Sivas, Turkey

The shadow of a man reading and another of a person standing in prayer are cast in accordance with the sun’s changing position in the sky. Therefore, a combination of mathematics, architecture, art and astrology were combined in the design of this mosque which was founded in 1228. Find out more here: New Discoveries in the Islamic Complex of Mathematics, Architecture and Art