Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Turkish spiders

Today was a funny thread going on the European Street Team on Etsy, about Turkish spiders. Apparently arachnophobia is very common. We have no problems with spiders, we have other phobias (that we keep secret).

But, did you know that spiders have a kind of holy status here in Turkey?
According to the legend, the prophet Mohammed fleeing for his enemies through the dessert, took refuge in a cave. The spiders immediately wove a dense web at the entrance of the cave. Mohammed’s enemies noticed the cave, but because of the web assumed that nobody had used the cave in a long time, and continued on. The prophet was so saved by the spiders.

By the way, exactly the same legend exists with turtle doves building their nest at the entrance of the cave. Turtle doves or collared doves come originally from Jordan, but are very common in Turkey as well, beautiful birds with pinkish brown feathers, always in twos, faithful for life.

When I was a civil engineer working for Amsterdam’s city hall we had two lady visitors, two architects from South America. In Amsterdam, pigeons are a plague, their detritus causing severe damage to buildings, because of its acidity, so that many historical buildings have to be wrapped in metal mesh, to prevent the birds letting their droppings on window sills and so.
I was explaining to those ladies what a big nuisance these pigeons were, and they started to giggle uncontrollably. Asked what was so funny, they say: How can something that you can eat, be a nuisance?

Tja,…how indeed?

Monday, 22 October 2007

The life of the goat


Being born on a year of the goat, it is not surprising that stubbornness is one of my most prominent character treats. I consider it a life saver, but it is cumbersome at times. At times it is just funny. I’ll share with you a little piece of the theatre of my life:


Driving from home to our work place, through a small one way street, I come nose to nose with a guy driving a jeep (the wrong way) that gesticulates irately that I should go around him over the sidewalk.

I point to the street sign and stop the engine.

The guy stops the engine.

(Glenn illustrates)

Time goes by and several drivers behind me, either back away or go around us over the sidewalk.

A friend of the other driver comes by and starts remonstrating with me, telling me that his friend only lives a block away in my direction, implying that is for him very logical to ignore the street sign.

I don't bulk.

(Peculiar Pet Portraits)

The man then starts wrestling with his friend to get behind the wheel in order to move the car without his friend loosing face. The guy doesn’t give up.

I am enjoying this.

After twenty minutes, a street cop strolls to us at a leisure pace and gestures to me to go back.

I point to the street sign.

The cop tells me that I am obstructing traffic. What a wonderful men’s world this is.

I ask the cop his civil servant number.

The cop gesticulates to the other driver to go back.

He does, but only enough for me to go by and clearly with the intention of continuing in the wrong direction after I have passed.

I don’t bulk.

The cop finally, fed up, indicates to the guy to back out the street. That he does, parks his car around the corner, gets out –a little guy with O legs- and directs his fury to the cop that has let him down.

I drive on. My day is good.

I really don’t know if I do right or wrong with all this. Estella tells me that it is not worth the hassle, and she is probably right. But standing my ground in a men’s world, gives me a kick.

Blame it on the goat.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Air mail

When we started selling jewelry online, we never dared to send them by mail, but used a carrier. Very expensive, but reliable and fast.

Recently, we have started to send smaller items by registered mail, and I must say that we are pleasantly surprised. The packages arrive within a week in Europe, twelve days in the USA. Also the delivery confirmations arrive dutifully back.

Receiving packages takes longer, three or four weeks, but we haven’t lost a package-yet.
Some time ago a friend from Holland had to send me a document that was important and urgent for me to get. So, to be sure, asked hem to send it to me twice, once by express mail and once by registered mail. Having to sign for the latest, should prevent it from getting lost.

Almost a month later I sow the postman finally arrive on his bicycle. With a flourish, the two thick envelopes flew over the garden wall and landed with a thud on the grass. Not per express, not registered, but air mail all right.


Monday, 15 October 2007

Unique selling proposition

We are in financial dire straits. That is a fact that can not be denied.

When we came to Turkey ten years ago we sold the house in Amsterdam, we bought a house here with the half of the money and we thought, or I thought, my daughter was very young at that time that in time we would find a job or create a job of some sorts here.

Finding a job was very easy, we discovered. Getting paid at the end of the month is not, we discovered as well. In a country where the judicial system simply doesn’t work, the temptation for the bosses just not to pay the employees is often too great.

Creating a job was not that easy. The bureaucracy is overwhelming, the foot traps countless and I think I just miss the perkiness or fearlessness or what ever it is that takes to be an entrepreneur. The vision and feeling for the golden opportunity.

So, for ten years now we have been slowly eating the proceeds of that house in Holland. It was a nice house, but now the very bottom of our reserves is in sight.
When we started making and selling fashion jewelry, and loving it, we thought that we had found our niche. And that is of course so. We are proud of what we do and we try to get better at it. So is Estella, for instance preparing her admittance exam to study metal smiting and jewelry making at one of Istanbul’s universities.

But in the mean time we simply don’t make enough money out of it to be able to go on this way. We are thinking very hard what else we can do. Something less glamorous than jewelry making but easier to sell.

(lisa hurwitz)

The brilliant architect that builds extraordinary houses rarely becomes rich. The one that becomes filthy rich is the one guy with the cement factory.

In this spirit, we made a quick survey of what is selling well on Etsy. One thing is clear: you need to specialize, to find your thing, your UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION, to use that very helpful term from economics.

Shops that are doing well sell mostly one item in all variations. Digital collage sheets for scrapbooking, for instance, is a topper. Brilliant too that such a shop can do all the business from home. No shipping costs for the buyer and no queues at the post office for the seller. Mmm…

A single item, in many variations, very well made, is always good. So are, for instance the beautiful leather bound journals made by our friend Kreativlink.

Knitting and crocheting do well on Etsy too. But my bookbinding, crocheting and knitting days are over, not that I was that great at those anyhow, I always was a mere pattern follower, and know I can not muster the patience either.

What else?
Continuing our search on Etsy we make a discovery:
Other ‘power sellers’ make cloth sanitary napkins and…crocheted tampons.

Oh dear…

I am old enough to have used during my first menstruating year terry cloth sanitary pads. The raspiness of those and the following washing (by hand) is one of the most ecofriendly and disgusting chores there are.

The tampons are awfully colorful, though. And no worries about my neighbors gossiping if they sow those drying on the line. Nobody here would guess what they are and think they are some eccentricity due to our being foreign and weird. Mice for the dogs to play with, maybe.

Please, please, I don’t want to offend anybody here. I admire this lady’s commitment to the environment AND her entrepreneurship. Just not my thing.

What else?

We are not sure. We think we try something not far of what we already do and start selling jewelry and other supplies on Etsy. Not very original, maybe, but think ‘cement factory’.
Anyhow, because the place we live in, we have access to stuff not available in other countries or at a much higher cost, so we try to offer those in our new shop.

Also we have made some scrapbooking kits with a ‘theme’, vintage, Christmas or a color theme. They were fun to assemble and kind of creative too, with digital prints and so.

And now we’ll see what happens…

Friday, 12 October 2007

Family Album

Last week, we found another dog. Some terrier mix, with big eyes, funny ears and very short legs, a very lovable hair ball.
Estella, who is much more sensible that I am, beg me not to take her, but to no avail. Not that Estella doesn’t love dogs, she does, but this little one makes number fifteen and they are a big financial burden.

This begun six years ago, with our first stray. Before then, we never had dogs and I never thought we would. But this lovely and opinionated cocker spaniel choose us by simply coming into our yard and refusing to go. After a couple of days, we found the owner, but she was happy to get rid of her dog, she had clearly grown tired of it. And that is the big problem here, and I suppose in other places too.

People get dogs, often buy dogs for a lot of money, without realizing how much work, expenses, and commitment a dog costs. Often are puppies bought as a toy for children and get thrown out when they start chewing the furniture or peeing in corners. Also there is a general believe here, that a dog is a health hazard for a pregnant woman or a baby, so well loved dogs go out when a baby is coming.

There is a shelter in the town were we live, where they are well fed and well treated, but it has a capacity of about 150, and they are much more dogs coming in than out, so they get killed after a while. It is a shame that people don’t want grown up dogs. I would always prefer a grown up dog, what you see is what you get. A very cute puppy can grow too much, or become very ugly. With an adult dog you can see much better if the dog suits you, and if you have any luck the dog will be already house trained.

All our dogs are ‘second hand’, they have been given to us or we found them, some times in very bad shape, they all have a past, often a hard one.
In the mean time…dogs have changed our lives, totally. Our house holding is not similar to any other house holding that you may know. Overall where you look you see dogs, every chair and settee is occupied by a doggie, very busy sleeping. Our furniture is in tatters, we spend much more on the dogs than we do on ourselves, we can not go anywhere overnight and the neighbors hate us.

But ah, the joy! If is true that people with a furry pet live longer, we will be a hundred and ten. They are truly lovable, and loving, creatures, and they are always happy to see us, longing for a cuddle. It is amazing to see how they make place in the pack for a newcomer. By the way, they are all neutered, of course.

And the new girl? We are bonding famously. Not surprising, considering that we share the same hair color and the same hair dresser…

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


Today was the last day of Ramazan (or Ramadan), one of the three holly months for Muslims, the month that good Muslims are supposed to fast, one of the fundamental duties imposed by their religion.
Eating, drinking, smoking, nothing is supposed to pass their lips, from sunrise till sunset. In addition to this, sex is forbidden during this month, as well as the drinking of spirits.

The idea behind this is, that everybody learns to know what hunger and deprivation is, to feel compassion for the poor and hungry, and besides, to learn self control. A very noble intent, by all means.
The daily implementation, however, is another story. People do fast, that is not the issue, they fast religiously from sunrise till sunset, and then, from sunset till sunrise they gorge themselves in a way that belies all the good intentions of frugality and solidarity with the poor.
People love Ramazan. Life is upside down and everybody participates in this food orgies in the middle of the night, like children in a picnic. All the advertisements on the press and television are about food, and the profit of the food industry triplicates in this month.

Other than eating, not very much gets done in this month. People leave work early, to be ready, with the spoon in the hand, to attack the meal at home at the very moment when a cannon shot announces the setting of the sun. The pre-cannon shot traffic jam in the streets is of course a wonder to behold, you just imagine all the people that have had nothing to eat or drink or smoke in many, many hours and how heated their tempers are. Don’t you dare to antagonize a hungry driver with the smell of food in his nostrils.
After the meal, the more religious go to the mosque, while the rest lounge in front of the television gathering their strength to do much more serious eating at midnight. The Ramazan sofrasi, the lavish Ramazan table can easily contain twenty dishes and big families and neighbors sit together and love it. For the poor, the city halls organize meals in enormous tents set up on squares, so that also the indigent eats best during the fasting period.

About an hour before sunrise, a drummer with a very big and loud drum, walks the streets to wake up the believer (and non believer alike), again courtesy of the city hall, in time to do a fortifying breakfast of soup and some six dishes with lots of tea. Then, again, to bed, till is time to go to work. See than if you can work, of course, with broken sleep, an upset stomach and terrible thirst. Where we live, is still over 30C during the day.
Needless to say that the emergency rooms do overtime on Ramazan, this unhealthy regime goes not unpunished. In this world, of course, and rewarded in the next (??). In many small cities life revolves around this system and shops open only after sunset. Quite practical, of course, you are an even good Muslim when fasting and sleeping at the same time.
Less fortunate are school children. They are expected to attend school as usual, but also encouraged to fast as long as they can keep it up, from the age of eight. They also love, of course, the nocturnal feasts and they feel like grownups when allowed to participate. This year the beginning of the school year and the beginning of Ramazan come together, Ramazan following the moon calendar, and so beginning ten days earlier every year. So, the poor kids, fresh from a school holyday long enough to let them forget every thing they learned in the past year, will bring the first month of the new school year dozing and being zombie-like.

Interesting detail is that school cantinas are closed this month, taking for granted that pupils and teachers will fast. In the meanwhile, students or teachers wearing a headscarf are not allowed at school, because a school is supposed to be a non-religious place and the country one of laity.

It maybe clear that I profoundly dislike this month, with all the doe respect to the honest people that are trying only to fulfill their religious duties. All that can be postponed, is postponed till the end of the month, the tempers are short, and of course is more evident than ever that we not belong. Nevertheless, we kind of like it here, so, here is where we are, sometimes bemused and sometimes enchanted, but always very much alive.

European Union :)

A friend mailed us these photographs and they are sooo good that we couldn’t keep them from you.
Life in Turkey has been very trying sometimes and we have had great difficulties understanding the way things get done here. If you look at the pictures you can imagine why.

Are this people stupid? No, of course not. They are…different!!
This one is the best:

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Rings and stuff...

This bridal necklace is currently available at our Rubylane shop. You wouldn’t guess, but it took Estella the best part of three days to get it to hang ‘just right’. Definitely OOAK, thus.

Once in a while we explore other roads, besides jewelry making, like making bags, belts, boxes…so, once in a while you will see other things in our Etsy shop. Here are some of our bags hanging companionably together in our workshop.

Sevan Bıçakçı has won this year, again, the American Town & Country jewelry price with one of his rings. He is the darling of the Turkish society and people queue for the privilege to buy one of his creations. And that is not because of his personal charms…the man is ugly as a toad, with fingers as sausages, and if the interviews that he gives are anything to go by, he is also rude and arrogant.
But his work…ah…that is something else entirely. He makes mostly rings, and although some can be found quite ostentatious, the quality of the work is irrefutable, with months of the most exquisite craftsmanship put in every one of his designs. Here some examples…

Don’t get too excited, though. You can buy a very good car for the price of one of his rings…not exactly Etsy material, thus.
Very much Etsy material are our rings, though. Also very crafty, funny and available for the humble mortal like you and I…

Monday, 1 October 2007


A possible definition of vintage jewelry is high-end fashion jewelry that has achieved a ‘collectible’ status and increases in value over time.
We like to think that will apply in time for all our designs!!
In the mean time we are happy to use ‘vintage’ elements in our creations, meaning, specially well made pieces or findings, that through their high quality or the fact that they are hand made and/or particularly old, deserve special attention.
Rather than to use only these vintage stuff in a creation we prefer to use it sparingly and highlight it , building a piece around the vintage parts, as it were.

Living in Turkey, we have access to a different kind of vintage, the old Turkmenistan pieces, that can be found in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. They are mostly alpaca pieces, sometimes low grade silver, adorned with stones or glass or even colored plastic. We love those pieces!!
They are exquisitely hand made, with an amazing craftsmanship and very simple means, often incorporating old coins and other recycled stuff, vintage within vintage, varying between twenty and seventy years old, give or take.
We don’t like that much the ethnic look, maybe because we see here so much of it. That is the reason that we try and give a totally new look to these old pieces, funky, vampy, eclectic. Hope you like it!

Here some views of our vintage goodies, waiting to be used. So much to do…