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THE PATCHWORK PLANET:
Quilting in Turkey
(Editor's Note, December 2004: This article was first published in April 1999. Gunsu Gungor's studio continues to thrive and her son Cemre is nearly grown. She continues to exhibit her quilts around the world, teach, and champion the cause of quilting in Turkey.)
I'm continually surprised and pleased by the e-mail I get from enthusiastic quilters in what might seem unlikely places. I received one such message on Christmas day last year from Gunsu Gungor in Ankara, Turkey, who asked me to visit her website (http://www.gcpatchwork.com). She proudly told me that her site had been designed and built by her 12-year-old son, Cemre.
It turned out that her site was not just a personal quilt page featuring her own work, but a business site for GC Patchwork Studio, which Gunsu owns and operates in downtown Ankara.
"I'm a business administration graduate of Bosphorous University in Istanbul," Gunsu says. "I moved to Ankara, which is the capital city of Turkey, after I got married in 1983. I learned the basics of patchwork at that time from friends. My hobby made me the patchwork teacher of the Turkish American Association in 1991, and in 1995 I formed my own studio. GC Patchwork Studio is situated at the center of Ankara and I have around 100 students yearly. My students come to the studio once every week for two hours. They attend here for three-month periods and learn different techniques. Some of my students attend my classes for four or five years."
Besides being a center for quilting education, the studio is a vital nerve center for quilters in Turkey. Gunsu organizes a show of the work of studio members' work every year which has high visibility in Turkey, including participation by the Minister of Culture Istemihan Talay, who wrote the introduction to the show's catalogue. In it he said, "Patchwork, which is made by joining the geometrical shapes traditionally, has been introduced in this catalogue with the modern interpretation of Gunsu Gungor Group. This catalogue, which sets forth a different dimension of cultural heritage . . . shall be a cultural torch that will enlighten the future generations." The show is always covered by local newspapers and television.
Beyond their own local show, the group
also participates in international quilt exhibitions.
"Last year we applied and were chosen to represent
our country at Quilt Show VI at Innsbruck," Gunsu
says. "Two quilts and three vests (one belongs to
me) were chosen. . . ." Encouraged by their success,
Gunsu's group decided to compete in the American
Quilters' Society annual show in Paducah at the end of
April. Gunsu wrote me recently: "We are pleased to
inform you that we will be participating in the American
Quilters' Society 15th Show and Contest in Paducah next
month. Two of my students and myself will take part in
the AQS/Hobbs Bonded Fibers Fashion Show and two quilts
from my students will be exhibited at the quilt show. We
will be in Paducah in April."
Turkey's rich textile heritage is well-known around
the world, but not so well-recognized is that patchwork
quilts are a big part of it. In fact some Turkish quilt
traditions are remarkably similar to other parts of the
world: "Patchwork was in the past made in my country
because of necessity," Gunsu says. "The people
used to do these at the villages, for example 40 patches.
When a girl was preparing for marriage she took 40 pieces
of cloth from 40 happily married couples and made a quilt
for herself wishing that she will be happily married. At
old times they used to make bed covers, praying mats (if
they are not in a mosque people pray to God on special
mats), bundles, etc., using these techniques. When making
these the techniques they used resembled the modern
techniques we use these days."
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