Monday, September 7, 2009


I returned last Monday after teaching a two-week workshop in lampworking glass beads in Istanbul, Turkey. This workshop was for intermediate level lampworkers and unfortunately the school where I taught did not take into consideration what I had specified in my course description although they had published my course outline in their websites and catalogs. The Glass Furnace had a difficult time this year filling up any courses and I had been informed that my class was the third class they had 'opened' up this year - all other classes were canceled due to lack of response and the economic situation. After my class, there are three glass classes scheduled to take place this week. So, they probably paid little attention to the kind of students they accepted for my class.

A two-week workshop can be fun and taxing at the same time. I realized that in lampworking there isn't very much you can do about the levels people consider themselves to be in since there are no international standards as to what constitutes a beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate, etc. It is up to each of us to find out beforehand what the instructor will teach and which level of experience we should have before taking any workshop. So, mainly this class I taught had absolute beginner (with no experience at all) to intermediate levels.

This class had five students from Turkey and another three from other European countries like the UK and Greece. The class was conducted in English. I was given a TA - which I only knew about when I got to Turkey. The school neglected to inform me in advance that I will have a TA who is on a volunteer basis and is engaged for social and not technical services. There were only five of us who stayed on campus - ie, all of us who were not from Turkey as well as the TA who is from Turkey - for slightly more than two weeks. Living, working and socializing with people you hardly know resulted usually in getting to know each other more or less personally pretty well. You end up either getting along well or you end up treading on toes.

I had a gentleman in my class who has been lampworking for three years, is a commercial lampworker and does not wear any eye protection either. No matter what I said as well as the other students too, his reply was 'we will get glaucoma when we grow old, so why bother to wear any safety glasses now'. He also teaches lampworking at Glass Furnace as well as in his studio (at someone's studio, I am not sure exactly where). He engages three women who each makes 150beads per day at his studio, they are not annealed either since he sells them cheap, ie he is a wholesaler, to stores in Turkey. I can't even begin to tell you how I had to re-think my teaching attitude/ways at Glass Furnace after this first day when I got to know the class. Cellphones would ring out loud in class, calls would be answered in class while I was demonstrating, people would enter the class without asking whether it was ok with me, without introducing themselves and even stayed to watch although they were not registered for the class, another person entered and stayed to make beads for two days and I had no idea who she was. Basically I literally 'went with the flow'; because of cultural differences, I decided to accept the class situation and I am, after all, a guest teacher in a foreign country. 'As in Rome, do what the Romans do'. Believe me, it was nonetheless the ultimate test of my patience. Yes, this workshop taught me a lot about tolerating others and as an instructor, ask the school beforehand (just like a student should ask me beforehand what I am teaching) whether they can meet the conditions I expect before committing to teach. I have only taught in the US and Europe where everything is organized and done according to what we agreed upon. Experience is a hard teacher (quote from Natalie Pisante, one of the ladies from the class).

On my last two nights in Turkey, I decided to move to a hotel in Istanbul instead of being at the school which was 30km in distance away from Istanbul centrum but in reality would take about two hours' public transportation to get to the city center. After the two-week workshop, I wanted to treat myself to view the beautiful Ottoman architecture in Istanbul and relax before I head back to Germany.

Here are some photos I took in while in Turkey. I have more than 300 photos I shot during this trip, if you like to, please click on my flickr link to view my photos.

Students working in the spacious studio. My main complaint was they used wooden surfaces for each torch/student which burned whenever any hot glass rod was laid on it by mistake. The school is not concerned about this issue even though I had pointed it out when I first inspected the studio.

Burca (left) from Turkey and Lina (right) from Greece

Sertac, Mine and Nurdan (left to right, Nurdan was my TA)

Some of my demo beads
More demo beads

Natalie, a student from Greece who presently lives in Tel Aviv (Israel) was keen on making hollow beads. I decided to make hollows, my last hollows were made about four years back, so that I could show Natalie what to look out for while making them. Below are some of my round hollow beads.

Another student, Lina, from Greece asked me to make crucifixes. I came up with these and am quite happy with them. I admit, I made the crucifixes more the Gothic scene than for religious reasons.

View of the Bosphorous from the hotel terrace where I stayed

One of my favorite extracurricular activities at the school was taking the boat ride up/down the river Riva. This first ride, we witnessed hundreds of flying fish leaping out of the water to catch insects in the air. What an amazing experience!
Left to right: Natalie, Dora, Nurdan, Sam and Lina

A local village store selling beach toys in Beykoz. We managed to stop at Bezykoz, a village located at the mouth of the Black Sea and Riva, where we stocked up on Coke, cookies, chocolates and cigarettes (Nurdan and Lina had to have their smokes)

Sunset at Bekoz, the river Riva leading to the mouth of the Black Sea

Dolmabahce Palace, as seen from the boat along the Bosphorous

Visiting Istanbul together,
left to right: Natalie, Sam, Lina, Dora

Lady visitor in the Harem, Topkapi Palace

Relic, Topkapi Palace

Window Panels, Topkapi Palace

Beautiful stain glass panels

Within the Blue Mosque

In the Basilica Cisterns