Art of ornament emerging from raw leather

Women have been trying to unearth an art lost in Trabzon by producing it. Women process raw leather to produce goods.


Trabzon- Zehra Yılmaz, who has worked as a teacher of leather processing for a project carried out by an association in the historical Alaca Han in Trabzon province, has been trying to unearth an art that is about to disappear today by teaching it to women. Yılmaz, who uses local motifs as well as modern patterns on raw leather, supports women to participate in working life by teaching this art.

Stating that she is trying to revive the traditional handicrafts of the region, Zehra Yılmaz points out that they have difficulty in finding tanned leather and that the art is made from raw leather.

“We buy tanned leather, we have knives and Kraft knives and we cut them. Then, we press, paint and sew them. We do every step. We have many classes. We try to revive the traditional handicraft of Trabzon by modernizing it. We usually use cowskins and lambskins but sometimes, we get very marginal leathers. There is a tannery bridge in Trabzon; the tanned leathers were processed there, but years ago. This business is over now. Today, we can find tanned leathers only in Isparta province. We bring them from there. The culture of processing tanned leathers disappears here.  We are trying to bring this art to light again in these small inns and small classrooms, but only its processing part. The tanning part of this art needs a special manufacturing method. We cannot do it. So, we try to bring this art to light again by processing leathers and producing bags, wallets, belts, accessories and vests. I like rug patterns very much. I embroider rug patterns on leathers. We also use modern patterns; even we use Picasso's paintings on leather. We use flower designs to decorate the leathers. We use whatever we feel on them.”

Strangers think the people of Trabzon are aggressive

Stating that her students are generally the students from other cities, Zehra Yılmaz also talks about how the people coming from other cities evaluate the people of Trabzon.

“Many people want to join our courses. Our sales rate is also very good. The products made by students are sold here in our sales office and the earned money is taken under the name of the student who produces the sold product and delivered to the student. There are many students coming from other cities. The students coming from other cities say life in Trabzon is very difficult for them. Yes, we are very active people. I guess we are very active, that's why they think it is difficult to live here, I don’t know. It is actually about the way we speak. We speak very loudly and fast. The people coming from other cities probably think we fight. The loudness of our voice sounds interesting to them. In fact, we talk in a very normal way for us. I mean, we are not aggressive and we don’t fight. Of course, when they get to know us more, their ideas change. One of my students told me, ‘I cried a lot until I arrived here. The minibus drivers scolded at me, the shopkeepers scolded at me, everyone scolded at me. Then, I realized that actually, they didn’t scold me, their way of speaking was like that. I'm used to it now.’ We have a sales office here. Here is a tourist place so it has many visitors. This inn is a very old inn from the Seljuk times. It was used as an inn for years. And then, it got damaged. It was restored during Ottoman time and used as an inn again. It is called Bakırcılar Hanı- Coppersmiths' Inn. The name of this street is Coppersmiths' Street. The coppersmiths used this area before but then a fire broke out and it was damaged. It was completely deformed. The directorate of culture restored it later.”

It is necessary to participate in life

Emphasizing that women should participate in life, Zehra Yılmaz calls on women to join the courses.

“The courses are the courses organized by a project carried out by an association. Women work here. They both learn and sell what they produce. For example, my students learn how to process the leather in three-four months and then they want to improve themselves in other fields. Some work on silvers, jewelry, or holograms. They continue like this. I want women to join the courses. Frankly, it seems very interesting to me that women put themselves into their houses. It is a very different thing. Life in houses is very difficult. When I stay at home during the holidays, I pray to go to my job as soon as possible because I get tired when I stay at home. The work at home never ends. I mean, if you do chores for days, they will never end. For this reason, we should participate in life. Our house stays there and never goes anywhere.  Just go out and make your life more colorful.”