Walking around Kristin Evihan’s atelier is like being in the workshop of the Creator of a Lilliputian race of people. Dozens of miniature glass heads line up along the shelves, waiting to be matched to one of the enamel and gold or silver bodies piled on the worktop and finished off with tiny metal feet. Destined to hang from chains of semi-precious stones as necklaces or from brooch settings, they are a huge evolution from the more traditional glass bead work that started Kristin’s career.
Beads, evil eyes, glass pieces set in silver, crocheted jewellery and textiles sit amongst the groups of chattering glass people. Winged angels. Flamenco dancers, babies, French court ladies, fat housewives, men in ties and the latest addition, clowns congregate in the display cases or hand from the walls waiting for someone to come and claim them. The workshop’s warm atmosphere owes as much to the personality of its inhabitants as it does to their designer.
Having graduated from the Beykoz glass making school, Kristin opened her own shop four and a half years ago in Çukurcuma. Of her peers, she is the only one using traditional methods to make something completely different and not only completely different in Turkey, there’s nothing like this anywhere at all. Each head starts off as a plain glass bead then, taking up to half an hour to complete, rosy cheeks, eyes, nose, ears and mouth are added before hair in all different styles and colours, maybe even hats.
Planning beforehand only which colours she will use (according to the colour of the bodies, the character of the head and its facial expression just emerge as the process takes place. Once she stops, the glass cools and nothing can be changed or added and the whole 2 or 3cm person can be assembled in a few minutes.
Over the last three years, more than 1000 of these little people have been born and sold and there is not such thing as old stock. Everything sells. Kristin used to find herself more attached to the pieces she made but has got used to letting them go. Apart from one: a big- brown haired head that sits hidden on a different shelf. Fearful lest someone see it and want to buy it, it remains body-less. ‘It is me,’ she says, ‘It is unmatchable.’
Since its 4500 BC appearance in Mesopotamia, glass was believed to have protective properties like that of the evil eye. So, for Kristin many of her pieces take the form of angels, while for me, they are more earth dwelling and mischievous like fairies. I fervently hope the former identity is uppermost as I sit in front of the 1200°C Bohemian Torch to try my hand at making glass. This being Turkey I have to put my trust in these less concrete safety measure. Naturally, I’m not wearing safety goggles, am dressed in flammable, man-made fabrics and there’s nothing covering my forearms should any bits of molten glass fly off.
Bead making conjures up a sweet factory with many of the techniques for pulling, mixing and glass-shaping resembling those in candy making. The melting end of the glass rod burns white and red in the flame like a meteor, turning and rotating to smooth out the bumps. When removed from the fire, the colours develop in seconds as it cools, like a Polaroid. Or at least, Kristin’s do.
I realise what it must feel like to be a man wearing boxing gloves and applying mascara for the first time. Making them requires ten times as much dexterity as it takes to rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time. My two attempts at beads looked more like wads of used chewing gum, but I proudly carried them home like a child’s school project to the painted on smiles of anyone I showed them to.
Much better equipped to be a customer than a glass maker, the choosing was more a matter of who amongst t he fairy people I made friends with than making a purchase. So much so that the bond, rather than the price, determined my pink haired, turquoise dressed angel on a matching turquoise chain which, in the end, was made up of individual parts I picked out myself. And, since no-one can have too many friends, I have the perfect excuse to buy another one next month.
Commissions available on request. If you provide a photograph, Kristin can make a head with similar characteristics.
(0212) 244 00344 Altıpatlar Sokak 8, Çukurcuma 80060 Beyoğlu