History and art of copper: Tools of traditional Turkish handicraft


 MAR 07, 2023 – DAILY SABAH

A coppersmith works on engraving a handcrafted item. (Shutterstock Photo)

A coppersmith works on engraving a handcrafted item. (Shutterstock Photo)

Copper has been part of humans’ lives for thousands of years, from tools and weapons to cups and kitchenware. We have taken advantage of this element in every walk of life, and particularly in Anatolia, it has taken on a life of its own, creating a unique handcraft art form


A sphinx statue believed to be made in the likeness of a Roman emperor is uncovered from an archaeological site in Qena, Egypt, March 6, 2023. (AP Photo)

Archaeologists unearth sphinx with smiley face, dimples in Egypt


Copper, whose discovery dates back to prehistoric times, was the first metal used to make tools and weapons. It is thought that the first examples were made in Chaldea – in the southeastern corner of Mesopotamia – in 4000 B.C. Later, with the preference for bronze and iron in the production of tools and weapons, copper began to be used more for kitchenware and ornaments, and from the past to the present, it has found a wide range of use in industry and daily life, and it has created new art forms.

Copper is a metal that has been used since ancient times due to its easy processing. Copper craftsmanship has an ancient history in every region of Anatolia, mainly in Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa, where many copper products are produced for daily use or decorative objects.

Turkish handicrafts have a wide range of branches, but one of the most important is the art of coppersmithing. The copperware field, which used to produce valuable and daily use items in the past, today focuses more on handicraft products created mainly for decoration purposes.

A craftsman works on engraving a copper plate. (Shutterstock Photo)
Various copper products on sale at a shop. (Shutterstock Photo)

Copper exists in nature both as a natural mineral and as an ore. Raw copper fragments are found in stream beds or the eroded upper layers of copper ores. Copper is an oxidized metal whose surface turns purplish-green over time, so it does not remain as shiny as gold.

Copper remains the most used metal in industry and daily life after aluminum for its wear resistance, malleability, high thermal and electrical conductivity and resistance to external influences.

Significant copper deposits are mined in Chile, Canada, the United States, Rhodesia, Congo, Russia and Peru.

Anatolian lands, the cradle of coppersmithing in the world, also have rich copper ore deposits. For example, academics have noted that the Ergani copper deposit in eastern Anatolia has been a site of copper mining for over 7,000 years. According to reports, there are nearly 500 copper ore deposits in Anatolia today.

A craftsman works on producing a copper item. (Shutterstock Photo)
Copper coffee pots on sale at a market. (Shutterstock Photo)

The primary copper deposits in Türkiye are Artvin’s Murgul, Rize’s Çayeli, Elazığ’s Ergani, Giresun’s Kızılmaya, Kastamonu’s Küre, Trabzon’s Kutlular, Giresun’s Köprübaşı, Balıkesir’s Dursunbey, Denizli’s Babadağ and Artvin’s Kuvarshan. Türkiye hosts 0.17% of the world’s copper reserves.

The art of metalsmiths is one of the oldest arts of the Turks. For this reason, the Turks, who process metals, left many metal samples from before and after the Islamic period. As a result, most metalworks that have survived today are copper items made with copper forging techniques.

The use of various techniques, especially in the metal works of the great Seljuks, shows the outstanding success they have achieved in this art. It is understood from the many surviving pieces that advanced coppersmith workshops were working with various techniques in Anatolia during the Hittite, Urartu, Phrygian, Hellenistic Roman, Byzantine and Turkish periods.

Konya, Mardin, Hasankeyf, Diyarbakır, Cizre, Harput, Erzincan and Erzurum are regions where workshops were concentrated during the Seljuk period. In the Ottoman period, new workshops were created due to the more intense operation of copper deposits, and the importance given to this art increased.

A coppersmith engraves a copper plate by hand. (Shutterstock Photo)
Various copper items at a shop. (Shutterstock Photo)

Copper has been used in every era as it is an easily workable metal. As a result, copper products, from the most miniature cup to giant cauldrons, have been produced and found in every age, and this handicraft has become an art form over time.

The city of Tokat is mainly known for its copper artists. Although coppersmithing, a standard business in Tokat during the Ottoman Empire, made its name known with forged copperwork at that time, today, it has continued with a small number of masters. Among the products produced by businesses in the city, boilers, basins and vessels are the most numerous. There are various reasons for this, but most importantly, these products can still find buyers in the Tokat market.

Copper cauldrons and basins are frequently used in preparing food such as tomato paste, molasses and canned items at home as winter supplies in the region. On the other hand, copper pots are bought as decorative items rather than used for their direct purposes. Although for different reasons, a few masters in the city continue to work in this line of business.

After the copper is hammered and shaped, patterns are usually etched on its surface. The technique of forging is used in the processing of copper.

Various copper and metal products on sale at a market. (Shutterstock Photo)
Copper coffee pots on sale at a shop. (Shutterstock Photo)

The forging technique uses two different methods called “pitting” and “collecting.” The etching is carried out with “relief” and “staple” methods. The motifs drawn with chisel pens are engraved on copper by striking them with blow pens and staples with various motif patterns on their ends.

There are also several styles of engraving on copper. These are the styles called relief, scraping and openwork. Vases, flower pots, trays and various decorative ornaments are among the most sought-after handcrafted copper items. The majority of the items produced are ornaments for tourist souvenirs.

Brass, obtained by mixing 70% copper and 30% zinc, is also processed by coppersmiths with motifs, and various products are created with it.

source https://www.dailysabah.com/life/history/history-and-art-of-copper-tools-of-traditional-turkish-handicraft

Leave a Reply