crockery records

Turkish tiles are world famous, not only the tiles cladding the walls of historical buildings but also the exquisite Iznik plates and bowls that have always been collectors’ items, masterpieces found not only in the Topkapi Palace Museum but also adorn the galleries of international museums, such as Gulbenkian in Lisbon and V&A in London . But the famous Iznik pottery was just another step in a long line of Anatolian pottery traditions.

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The Neolithic period in the Anatolian plateau extends to more than 3000 years. From about 9500 cal BC to about 6000 cal BC. Archaeological records show that agricultural practices first originated in the Fertile Crescent in the tenth millennium. Farming societies soon developed techniques for making pottery. Samples of burnt clay from the early eighth and late ninth millennium were found at Boncuklu Höyük in the Konya Plain, which predates the nearby site of Çatalhöyük. As agriculture spread west-central Anatolia, reaching the Aegean coast by 6600 BC and northwestern Anatolia by 6600 at the latest, so did pottery spread towards the western parts of Anatolia and eventually to Thrace.

The new findings in Thrace prove that farming communities spread in the Balkans and Europe, and interestingly, one can trace the earlier stages of this spread through sites scattered in the Phrygia region, around today’s Eskişehir, towards Iznik. The archaeological finds of Keçiçayırı reveal early Neolithic pottery, the site being among the oldest permanent settlements in the Eskisehir region, and containing some of the earliest evidence of the Neolithization process. These sites also formed the commercial roots that started trade in the area. No wonder why Iznik became the center of the finest pottery in the 15th century; There has been a consistent tradition of pottery making in the region. Interestingly, another important Ottoman pottery town is Kütahya, on the same route from central Anatolia towards Iznik.

The history of pottery in Anatolia is diverse and varied, stretching from the Hittite and Phrygian periods to the Greek and Roman times. Needless to say, the pottery trade continues along the trade routes, which also reach far lands. During the Roman period, red earthenware from the site of Sagalassos in the Taurus Mountains in the Mediterranean was a major export item. Red bowls of Sagalassos were sent all over the sites around the Mediterranean basin. In a way, this was a global export in its day. The success of Sagallasos’ red earthenware was its durability and strength, surviving long ship voyages, and of course its functionality. During the Ottoman period, not only was the local production, but there was a massive influx of Chinese ceramic wares that reached the Ottoman court. Today, the Topkapi Palace Museum hosts the largest collection of celadon crockery outside of China. Iznik tools were greatly influenced by these Chinese tools.

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The reason I delve into the history of pottery and ceramics in the country is to understand the background of a deeply rooted tradition. In contemporary Turkey, new brands have emerged selling fine earthenware and ceramics all over the world. My latest discovery about it was getting to know Bonna Porcelain and Ceramics, which I started as Kar Porselen in 1983 as a small ceramic ring with big dreams. The birthplace of the company was Bilecik, on the road from Eskişehir to Iznik, as if intending to rewrite the history of the pottery of the region. They had a humble but brave start, always striving to try and bring something new to the market. One can remember chef-shaped cutlery holders and basket-woven ceramic bowls on every table. They were the first to produce square plates that challenged traditional round food plates. Of course, it was not only about the form, but also the technique. Everyone who works in hotel/restaurant/cafe knows that broken crockery is a nightmare. Even with the slightest chip on the edge, you can’t present the plate to the client, and if your crockery isn’t of high quality, risks are bound to occur. Seeing this, Kar Porselen rebranded in 2014, becoming Bonna Premium Porcelain and focusing on technology, launched Turkey’s first lifetime chip edge warranty panels, and eventually became one of the most successful HoReCa brands in the country. They participated in Milan HOST in 2015 and Frankurt Ambiente in 2016. Today, the company sells worldwide to 90 countries on six continents, and features innovative designs, including hand-painted collections. With the increasing demand, they have invested in two modern facilities, the first in Çayırova, which increased the capacity to an additional 10 million pieces, and the second in Bilecik, Pazaryeri, with an additional capacity of 12 million pieces. These are serious numbers, and with the durability they have for the future, I bet we can talk about the archeology of Bonna cutlery all over the world, as well as records of pottery in Turkey.

Fork of the week: Cutlery is not only about crockery, but also about cutlery. When it comes to setting a table, you need to have a full set of appropriate spoons, knives, and forks in place. At this point we can’t really talk about an ancient past of cutlery making in Turkey, put aside the great culture stuck to spoons only. Forks, knives, and spoons only began to be introduced with the waves of 19th century Westernization, beginning with the first Western-style fixed tables in the Dolmabahçe Palace, where individual cutlery became the norm. But spoons were another phenomenon. Spoons were like chopsticks for Chinese cooking in Turkish culinary culture.

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This week I chose the “fork of the week” not as a food item but as an actual fork, knife, and spoon. Bonna Brand recently took another brave step forward and introduced the first line of cutlery designed by famous British designer Nick Holland based in Portugal. The cutlery collection includes three collections – Grace, Vogue, and Illusion – designed to cater to different occasions, from casual to fine dining. I’ve had the chance to try the latter, a feather-light and easy-to-handle range that can fit any table from casual to fine dining. I find Vogue particularly likable, perhaps this font reminds me of the Danish-designed cutlery we used to owe a debt to back home from Denmark. Flowing lines and soft curves make the Vogue line sculpted and modern, perfect for everyday, casual tables. But my heart lies in Grace, a timeless collection with almost art deco style and a contemporary look with a Scandinavian and Japanese flair, designed to become a classic on any table, design that lives up to its apt name for all graceful special occasions for a lifetime.

Aileen Oni Tan,

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