The following are a few key points of a new project that I am tremendously excited about:

 

  • This past May, a former student of mine invited my wife and me to help a women’s work cooperative in Southeastern Turkey to create and market new designs and products.
  • These ÇATOMs (Multi-Purpose Community Centers) were established by the Turkish government to improve the situation of women in the area.
  • The current work they are producing and selling is made extremely well but lacks a contemporary design approach that we could assist them with.
  • We are seeking funding from a variety of sources to buy new tools and materials for the ÇATOM to produce new work.
  • The new designs will debut at an annual exhibition/sale of all ÇATOM’s work in Istanbul in June 2013.

 

It is thrilling to be involved in a project like this where lives are being significantly improved through craft.  We hope that you see the value and potential of this project like we do!

 

BACKGROUND

This past May, I was invited by a craft school in Istanbul, Turkey to give a workshop on paper-resin jewelry.  In the workshop, I had ten students all from different backgrounds: some hobbyists, some designers, and even a teacher of handcrafts from the southeast of Turkey. Her name is Müjde. She teaches in a women’s cooperative in the southeast of Turkey. I learned that there are many women's groups in Turkey who are trying to help rural area women to become more financially independent. These women have little education, so they have difficulty getting good jobs. They get together at this cooperative center and make handcrafts. They have great handskills but they have challenges designing because they don’t have any design education. This cooperative sent one of their teachers to my workshop in Istanbul to learn the resin-paper technique because they know that they need to learn new techniques. These women generally make jewelry, accessories, and tablecloths through knitting, felting, crocheting, and tatting.  However, they keep repeating the same things over and over again. They need designers! So, my wife and I, who is also a designer, decided to help them by brainstorming with them to create new designs.

            In June, we traveled to the village of Ömerli, outside the city of Mardin in the southeast of Turkey, where Müjde’s ÇATOM is located.  We spent three days there, brainstorming new designs, meeting the other women of the ÇATOM, and learning more about the area.  The entire time we all felt like old friends—the personal connection and positive energy was incredible!  We returned to the USA in July and have been sharing our recent experiences with many friends and colleagues.  It appears that our enthusiasm has been contagious because everyone has been so supportive and encouraging.  Several people are even anxious to get personally involved themselves.

Right now, not many people want to buy the ÇATOM’s work because they don't make anything original. There is only one problem. We can consult for them for free, but we don't have money to buy materials for them! They need financial support to buy materials because just having some design ideas will not earn them money—they have to actually produce the design. Therefore, my wife and I decided to apply to this grant so that we can help them in providing materials as well.  This funding will make a significant positive change in the lives of the women involved.

As this project develops, we have a dream of producing a book about the whole process.  This book would have the potential of expanding awareness of the work of the ÇATOMs to an international audience.  In the meantime, more information and current updates are available at a href="http://www.TurkCraft.org%3E">www.TurkCraft.org>;

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Replies to This Discussion

James and Umut - How can we help? Is there any input in terms of ideas, materials or resources with which Crafthaus members could help.

I love the social aspect of this project and the fact that you've identified that so many social projects like this are stuck in the "homespun" which severely limits the commercial potential beyond the usual markets.

Thanks so much for asking some very important questions.  Currently, the biggest help would be donating through Paypal (button on the bottom of all TurkCraft.org webpages now...).  Soon, the women's cooperative will be producing some of our new designs that we've created with them and we'll be working to make them available for sale--people could certainly buy those to help support them as well.  Eventually, we hope to connect our Turkish Women's Cooperatives with other interested designers (there are about 30 in Southeastern Turkey).

Umut will be visiting them again later this month and we will have some exciting updates for this crafthaus group shortly!

We also added a donate button straight into the crafthaus group. You'll see it on the group's main page!

:-)

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