Turkish tiles are world famous, not only the tiles that cover the walls of historic buildings, but also the beautiful Iznik plates and bowls that have long been collector’s items, masterpieces found no only in the Topkapı Palace Museum but which also adorn the showcases of museums around the world. , such as the Gulbenkian in Lisbon and the V&A in London. But the famous pottery of Iznik was just one more step in the long line of pottery tradition in Anatolia.
The Neolithic period of the Anatolian Plateau spans over 3,000 years; from about 9500 cal BC to about 6000 cal BC. Archaeological records show that agricultural practices were first established in the Fertile Crescent in the 10th millennium. Agrarian communities would soon develop pottery making techniques. Samples of fired clay from the early 8th and late 9th millennia have been found at Boncuklu Höyük on the Konya Plain, which even predates the nearby Çatalhöyük site. As agriculture spread west from central Anatolia, reaching the Aegean coast before 6600 BC and northwestern Anatolia no later than 6600, pottery also spread. spread to western parts of Anatolia and eventually to Thrace.
New discoveries in Thrace prove that farming communities spread across the Balkans and into Europe, and curiously, earlier phases of this spread can be traced through the sites dotting the region of Phrygia, around present-day Eskişehir, towards İznik . Archaeological findings from Keçiçayırı reveal ancient Neolithic pottery, with the site being one of the earliest permanent settlements in the Eskisehir region and containing some of the earliest evidence of the Neolithization process. These sites also formed the commercial roots that launched trade in the region. No wonder Iznik became a hub of the finest pottery in the 15th century; there has been an ongoing tradition of pottery making in the region. Interestingly, another important Ottoman pottery town is Kütahya, just on the same route from Central Anatolia to İznik.
The history of pottery in Anatolia is diverse and varied, ranging from the Hittite and Frigian periods to Greek and Roman times. Needless to say, there was a continuous trade in pottery along the trade routes, reaching distant lands as well. In Roman times, red earthenware tableware from the site of Sagalassos in the Taurus Mountains in the Mediterranean was a major export product. Red plaques from Sagalassos were sent all over the venues around the Mediterranean Basin. In a way, it was a global export of its day. The success of the Sagallasos red earthenware was its durability and resistance, its resistance to long boat trips and, of course, its functionality. During the Ottoman period, it was not just local production, there was a huge influx of Chinese porcelain that arrived at the Ottoman court. Today, the Topkapı Palace Museum houses the largest collection of celadon ware outside of China. Iznik ware was largely influenced by these Chinese ware.
The reason I delve into the history of pottery and ceramics in the country is to understand the background of a deeply rooted tradition. In contemporary Turkey, new brands have sprung up, selling fine china and ceramics all over the world. My recent discovery in this was learning Bonna porcelain and ceramics, which started as Kar Porselen in 1983 as a small ceramic workshop with big dreams. The birthplace of the company was Bilecik, just on the road from Eskişehir to İznik, as if he intended to rewrite the chronicle of tableware in the region. They had a humble but brave start, always looking to try and bring something new to market. We may remember their chef figurine cutlery holders and the woven ceramic bowls on each table. They were the first to produce square plates challenging conventional round plates. Of course, it was not just about the form but also about the technique. Everyone in the hotel/restaurant/café industry knows that chipped dishes are a nightmare. Even with the slightest chip on the edge, you can’t serve the plate to the customer, and if your tableware isn’t top quality, mishaps are bound to happen. Seeing this, Kar Porselen reshaped its brand in 2014, becoming Bonna Premium Porcelain and emphasizing technique, launching the first Lifetime Edge Chip Warranty Plates in Turkey and eventually becoming one of the most popular HoReCa brands. most prosperous in the country. They participated in Milan HOST in 2015 and Frankurt Ambiente in 2016. Today, the company sells worldwide in 90 countries on six continents, with innovative designs, including hand-painted collections. With the growing demand, they invested in two state-of-the-art facilities, the first in Çayırova, increasing the capacity to an additional 10 million pieces, and the second in Bilecik, Pazaryeri, with an additional capacity of 12 million pieces. These are serious numbers, and with the durability they have, in the future I bet we can talk about an archeology of Bonna tableware all over the world, adding to the chronicles of Türkiye tableware.
Fork of the week: The art of the table is not only crockery, it is also cutlery. When it comes to setting a table, you need to have the right full set of spoons, knives and forks. At this stage, one cannot really speak of a deeply rooted cutlery past in Turkey, apart from the great culture attached to spoons alone. Serving of forks and knives as well as spoons only began with the waves of Westernization in the 19th century, beginning with the first Western-style tables set at Dolmabahçe Palace, where individual tableware became the norm. . But the spoons had been another phenomenon; spoons were like chopsticks for Chinese cooking in Turkish culinary culture.
This week, I chose “Fork of the Week” not as a food, but as a real set of fork, knife and spoon. The Bonna brand has recently taken another brave step forward and introduced its first cutlery line designed by renowned British designer Nick Holland based in Portugal. The flatware line includes three collections – Grace, Vogue and Illusion – designed to suit different occasions, from casual to gourmet. I was lucky enough to experience the latter, a feather-light and easy-to-handle collection that can fit any table, from casual to fine dining. I find Vogue particularly adorable, maybe this line reminds me of the Danish designer cutlery we used to carry home religiously from Denmark. Flowing lines and soft curves make the Vogue line sculptural and fashionable, perfect for everyday casual tables. But my heart rests on Grace, a timeless collection with an almost Art-deco flair and a contemporary look with Scandinavian and Japanese accents, destined to become a classic on any table, a design in keeping with its name that suits all gracious special occasions for a lifetime.