The Most Aesthetic Form Of Wood: Art Of Wood Carving

Written by TR Dergisi

Wood carving Turks started practising in Central Asia, and peaked in Seljuk and later in the Ottoman Empire, has a significant place in Turkish history.

Although practised primarily due to aesthetic concerns, carving is an important art that should be promoted and survived.

Since wood carving was first practised by Turks in Central Asia, it has given life to prominent works of Turkish art of decoration.

This unique handicraft that has survived from ancient periods to our day, sometimes on an object sometimes individually, has become a cultural element.

It is evident that wood was processed by Turks before common era when the animal figures on the sarcophagi built by separating tree trunks, and use of small wooden pieces together with leather on horse harnesses as decorations, are observed.

In Anatolian Seljuk who continued art of wood with Turkish migration to Anatolia, carved wood  was featured in mosques, mosque ceilings, lecterns, and minbars which was uncommon in Central Asia, and religious motifs became subjects of carving. Accordingly, Kaşgarlı Mahmut frequently mentioned the terms related to wooden doors in his book Divan-ı Lügat’it-Türk.

This way, art of wood carving gained a place for itself in Turkish culture over an extended period of time, which was enriched with various materials and branched in itself. As cultural wealth grew, wood carving techniques and the range of architecture decorated by these techniques increased considerably. The finesse of wood carving can be observed particularly on wooden mosques built in Central Anatolia and in their interior decorations. Sivrihisar Ulu Mosque, Ankara Arslanhane Mosque, and Beyşehir Eşrefoğlu Mosque, built from wood and with interiors decorated with wood, are among the finest examples of wooden mosques.

Some techniques used in wood carving are carving, inlaying, painting, assembly (kündekâri) and nailing (kâfisi work). What distinguishes these is the depth and style of carving. It is possible to say that assembly is the most difficult technique. Some of the most preferred types of trees for wood carving are rose, ebony, cedar, walnut, apple and pine.

In addition, we can say that this handicraft lived its golden age in the Ottoman State because the finest examples date back to this period. By surviving the legacy of Seljuk and adding different materials to it, the Ottoman produced fine works in this field.

In the Ottoman period, carved wood started to decorate walls and window edges, moreover it became an exterior architectural element. Tophane Ahmet the Third Fountain, and Azapkapı fountain represent the fine craftsmanship in wood carving.

Although the art of wood carving is practised today, it is challenged by fast production. Woodworking masters worry that the traditional arts will not be passed down to future generations.


Wood Carving Master Mehmet Yasak

“I inherited wood carving from my father. Although I am a professional financial advisor, I never thought I would work as an advisor my whole life. Wood carving is not a profession one can perform without love. I mainly produce items with an aesthetic dimension in my workshop. Although I love this profession, I must stress that today wood carving shares the same fate with other traditional handicrafts. Such professions are learnt through master-apprentice relationship, and if good masters are not raised, there will be nobody to teach the profession. This is why I believe it is necessary to establish an institute to protect wood carving and other traditional Turkish arts and crafts, to appreciate their value, and to pass these down to future generations. In the light of this idea, I teach wood carving in my own workshop, and I have students from different fields of occupation. We make our best efforts however such arts will cease to exist if a more serious organization is not established.”

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TR Dergisi

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