A workshop in Gedikpaşa

When he saw that obsolete cemetery,

Curiosity, excitement and fear… all were in the heart of a boomerang.

He has come to an end,

He knew it.

Surrendering that irresistible gravity, desperately, after taking first steps in a hurry, now he is in a tiny grave,

His young heart is lying sadly with his headstone, bigger than himself

That did hurt him.

In fact, do you know what does hurt him?

Being forgotten without a goodbye,

Fading away like a mild breeze.

And after that?

Hammer, anvil, milling cutter…

Both in his hand,

And in his ears,

It is written on the walls of his workshop,

As if he was sentenced there to life imprisonment…

Photo credit: Gökcan Güner

Istanbul Gedikpaşa

Having a joint with the sea breeze and the crowd of Kapalıçarşı, having a common history starting from Beyazıt’s tram road to the Kadırga port…

Turkish bath, local restaurants, church and mosque are located in this tiny yet dense place; Gedikpaşa, where it is called at first place when you need leather bags or shoes.

I met Muzaffer in this historic place, you can recognize the region from the bricks of buildings and sidewalk motifs. The place took its name from Gedik Ahmet Pasha in Ottomans.

Muzaffer is one of the oldest craftsmen in Gedikpaşa. Everyday he stands for not to be defeated by industrialization, modernism and the new era of communication in his workshop with his five employees.

Calling them employees, they are more like friends who know each other well, who appreciate a cup of tea together who have considerable stage of experience in that workshop together.

Our story had started when I asked “where is your apprentice?”

With his own word he replied: “You know the brand that you wear but, do not know that we are producing that brand.” Then he let me in his workshop.

His workshop was inherited from his father. Once he tried to enter the food business but then he thought “we use spike to make a joint of shoes, some businesses are out of joint” and then he returned to his father’s job.

Photo credit: Gökcan Güner

I refuse to talk more on this corrupt food business, we only have our lunch break with full of enjoyment, don’t we?

I am not a fan of talking about effort and crafting that these people put on and their suffering of not to find any apprentice to work with or having apprentices’ leaving these people for an ambition of making more money.

The common phrase of our modern world is “work less, earn more”.

Photographers would understand it better, taking a great shot of craftsmen or their ateliers is not something that every photographer can do.

Tiredness, the feeling of being forgotten, loss of every colleague who promised not to leave… It all comes back to him resentfully.

I urge, visit them again, they will be glad that you come.

“Would you like some tea?”

Muzaffer was different… His words were waiting for a spirited conversation. So I said “Yes.”

When tea had come, he put in sugar and started to make noise with his tea spoon. That sound echoed throughout the workshop.

As a tradition of him, he introduced the machines they are using. I can not tell how much I have missed listening stories from a craftsman with his forms of politeness.

Photo credit: Gökcan Güner

Although the workshop seems disorganized at first, each equipment has its own place. While I was talking to Muzaffer, other craftsmen were working quietly. They looked as if they were praying.

Do you know why is that so impressive?

Times like when almost all people are changing with each other, watching these craftsmen are working in a harmony is like a black-and-white film.

Who knows, maybe that scene got me and I felt so emotional.

This place is far away from tables where scientific discoveries are made. I have never experienced this feeling in another place, for sure. This place is more like working as a wall clock in the morning and as quiet as a suburb with its exhausted migrant residents coming back from work at nightfall.

While listening to Muzaffer, I slowly sipped my tea. I just cannot let the idea go of my mind “What if this lovely conversation ever ends?”.

He must have understood it from my face, kindly answered “we can have one more cup of tea”.

Photo credit: Gökcan Güner

Please forgive me, if I cannot remember all of your names correctly, fellow craftsmen. When we met, you all directly looked in my eyes and welcomed me with an inner voice of “welcome to the world of sink into oblivion”. That look made me feel like I was reading an abstract of a book.

“We are forgotten” said one of them, suddenly. “Before, we were the first ones who knew upcoming holidays and bayrams. We used to work so hard to finish the orders we had received. We used to work days and nights in order to make shoes for many fathers’ daughters and sons.

“That is why we remember all the important days of holidays” he said quietly.

The day has always remembered good if a child is happy with his new shoes and thanks their father for having those. This kind of happiness where children have their eyes shine with joy, is the only thing left from a tiring day.

It used to be a valuable tradition buying new clothes and shoes. You will use as you get old, your brother also uses, even your neighbour’s son afterwards. Clothes have had an identity at those times, it have had a genuine value…

Now, “up and coming” motto leads our lives, without being noticed…

If you keep reading until this paragraph, let me tell you more about that workshop.

A three-storey wooden house, more like an Armenian or Greek architecture; at the second floor there is a tea house with a person waiting for his customers like a patient fisherman waiting on his boat. You can see shoes which are waiting for being baked in a big oven whose heat you can even feel from distance. Papers, including motifs to be processed on shoes, catch your attention. Workshop welcomes you within this harmony.

Craftsmen teach you how you can glue shoes or how you put motifs on them without talking but letting you observe the process. Workshop’s windows have broken glass covered with newspapers. If you look closer, you can see these newspapers are old maybe 10 years old but still cover the wind and cold.

How time flies…

Photo credit: Gökcan Güner

It all starts with a leather plate. Then it is shaped by specified equipment and motifs are drawn on this plate. Later, the plate is glued to the bottom mold.

This is the first smell of molded shoes…

That glued shoes are then fixed with the help of a hammer and nails. When the time comes to oven baking, shoes dance with fire.

What comes next?

The rest is history. Shoes get labeled and are put on stores’ shelves. That is the place where shoes get expensive.

Price and labels… Just like our name tags…

People’s facial lines and their looks give you hints about their lives. Their memories, regrets, mistakes are told without any speech. Their eyes and the way they look at you, like Arabic accents in a script, they help you to emphasize the importance of their milestones in life.

I, at this age of me, have learned that shoes that cover our feet with high quality are shaped and valued in talented craftsmen’s hands.

You need to have curiosity in order to learn, at first.

Photo credit: Gökcan Güner

“What happens to a person

Happens because of his curiosity

I thought there’s no other way

But to be curious about you

In a possibility that you may come…”

Cemal Süreya

Like what you read? Give Ustamdan a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.