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Gumbo's Pic of the Day, November 3, 2014: Ceramic Making in Avanos (Turkey)


Avanos is a small town in historic Cappadocia in Central Turkey with a population of about 35,000 people. Despite being small, this town has been famous for its making of earthenware pottery since the time of the Hittites in the Bronze Age. Today, although the town is often frequented by tourists, the ceramic trade is still very much active and remains the biggest economic activity in Avanos.


The craft of pottery and ceramic-making is a family tradition which is still passed down from generation to generation. Tradition has it that if a man could not make pottery he could not get married. It takes 6-7 years of apprenticeship to learn the trade and many started really young. In these photos Ahmet has been making ceramics for the last 30 years. Nowadays there are women who also do the intricate painting and decorations on the ceramic pieces and it's no longer a requirement for marriage for the men.


There are two types of silt that goes into their pottery making which gives it either a red or white base colour before it is painted. The red silt used comes from the banks of the nearby Kizilirmak River (also known as the Red River) which separates Avanos from the rest of Cappadocia. The white clay is from the hill regions surrounding Avanos.

The designs can be very colourful to more traditional pieces bearing the local yellow Hittite or blue Turkish designs; all beautifully handcrafted with care as it remains the pride of Avanos.



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On my first visit to a ceramics store in Turkey I received an interesting culture lesson.

The guy in the store was also the producer of these fascinating pieces of artwork.

His late father had passed the business to him and that was the family tradition.

I struck a good deal on the items I bought and thanked him for his patience in showing me how the ceramics were made - with the help of photographs from his factory.

His father had been to Washington DC and was head of ceramics when the Mosque was being constructed. He showed me more photographs. But these were from the internet.

He further explained his religious belief that if he failed to sell to his first customer of the day - then that day would be a business failure. Hence my great deal on my purchases. After I paid him for the pieces he threw the money to the ground and shouted something in Turkish. "What's wrong with my money" I shouted at him. He ran to me apologising and hugged me. And explained the meaning.  Another custom was to offer the first money of the day to God too.

Then after a long exchange of cultural questions I asked what he still wanted from life when he seemed to have all he ever wanted at such a young age.

"I would like more than anything in the world to see the mosaics my father created in the Washington Mosque. But the US Embassy here in Turkey say I will not return back to my home and family - so I will never see them"




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