Since the close of our building, we have been soul-searching and rediscovering who we are as a collective. What is our mission? What are our goals? What sort of projects are we attracted to? Who will take part in these projects? Where is the money that is supposed to fall out of the sky allowing us to make these goals a reality?

One such goal–that has been much discussed throughout the history of Caravansarai–is to have matching outfits for all our members. A team uniform, if you will. Arni and I have a performance we do in which we have dolls who’s clothes match our own. Julie and I occasionally buy the same jacket, or shirt, or sometimes the same dress.

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Last year, when Istanbul was the 2012 Capital of Sport, we designed tracksuits for the Caravansarai Goldfish (our swim team that never happened.) Then we decided all of our artists should have matching attire.

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I am finally in a place to make the matching outfit dream a reality. I am in China. There are whole stores where they sell matching outfits for couples. It is also possible to have anything made to specification on the spot. People can buy matching pajamas and wear them outside and often do!!! All I’m saying is that if we can reach some sort of consensus on our work clothes, then perhaps it will help us construct and firm up our future goals altogether. But what do our members think?

Me (Anne Weshinskey): I vote for our orientalist Party 21 dresses (pictured above) and the track suits for sportive occasions, and the yellow painter overalls for work. I am currently working on a new foot juggling apparatus with the Fujian Acrobatic Troupe, developing a new stage show with two other American acrobats trained in China, and making work with my husband, Arni Gudmundsson.

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Arni Gudmundsson: Arni is partial to yellow painters overalls. He is doing a residency at the Chinese European Art Center  in Xiamen, China.

Julie Upmeyer: Last time I checked, Julie agreed with me: That we should have a variety of matching outfits to pull out depending upon the occasion. Julie is currently being hyper-productive in her new studio in Şişhane, Istanbul. Her newest work was exhibited with critical acclaim in a show, which will close the 30th of October at BAUART (the new gallery of Bahçeşehir University)

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Here Julie’s work is featured on television

Sibel Horada: I would hope that Sibel prefers the Party 21 dresses. However, I think there was some sort of debate about choosing NEW dresses. We have yet to see the designs. Sibel is also very hard at work in the studio she shares with Julie (and another artist Mehmet Ekiz) in Şişhane. Her solo show at Daire Sanat in Istanbul opens soon.

Korhan Erel: I would like to think that Korhan would do anything for art and just wear the Party 21 dress, but I think he has his own opinion in the matter. Damn. Always motivated and headstrong, Korhan is always playing concerts with various improvisational artists. Currently in Istanbul, you can check out Korhan’s website for when and where to catch him: korhanerel.com

Fiona Davies: She is strictly anti-uniform unless it is black or silk. I don’t wear black, but if she can come up with something in silk, I will wear it. Fiona has been making new work, curating, traveling, and just unveiled a sculpture commission in Australia and is now taking a break to organize herself and her studio.

Anita Bacic: Anita has been very vocal about her refusal to wear any sort of tight dress. Therefore, the Party 21 dresses are out. She does plan to buy a pair of the yellow painter overalls when she returns to Istanbul from traveling around in Europe researching for artworks.

We welcome any other member or the CC to post their preferences and update us about their current projects via the comments!!!!!

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We last left our poor terrace in the dark of winter, with an unruly chimney spewing black bits of soot all over our beautiful tiles.

Fortunately there have been some improvements in the last month, thanks to Cemil Usta, our miracle-working iron man and a few trips to the flower market in Eminönü.

Cemil has designed an impressive structure that (mostly) keeps the sun out of your eyes when enjoying lunch. We sill have some experimenting to do with some sliding curtains on the far end if the sun ever really comes out. He has also enclosed the crumbling chimney!, which not only prevents it from falling in our dinner, but also stops the black soot from scattering all over the terrace. Note: never rely on a neighboring business association to do what you can do yourself. Another option was the chickens of course (chimney sweeping chickens) We also have a nice new railing to keep us from falling down the stairs to the kitchen.

We now have a growing family of plants that are waiting with us for the nice weather: jasmine, cilantro, ornamental cabbage, blue bells, some ‘Ottoman’ tulips and various flowering trees and vines.

Now only if it were warm out…

Graphic designer Alex Bettler was at Caravansarai last week to taste the bread of Istanbul (hopefully not too much of the bland white fluffy kind) and to make some of his own. We were hosting the Turkey edition of his international Bread Workshop. He was interested in the way that the simit could act as a means of communication, like a newspaper, when it is distributed through the street carts.

After a short introduction of his past works and some history behind his fascination with bread, we got started. The production space was a flurry of flour, oil, milk, sesame seeds, baking powder and eggs as the 25 or so workshop participants mixed together their dough. He brought two recipes to choose from, simit and an Irish Soda bread. While the dough was resting, he encouraged the participants to go out into the neighborhood, to research and brainstorm the way that their bread could communicate their message.

Back in the production space, the dough was rolled, shaped, smashed and otherwise formed into all sorts of shapes – small cubes to imitate sugar cubes placed aside tea glasses, hands, strips, infinity symbols, even a giant Nokia mobile phone. We paraded through the streets with our trays of dough, to the neighboring Pide Restaurant, whose stone oven was still hot from lunch. Though I doubt that any ‘new forms of communication with the inhabitants of Perşembe Pazarı’ were invented through the bread, the neighborhood did enjoy the results of our labors. You can imagine how much bread 25 people can make.

The workshop was organised by TRUK, ( TR – UK), a new organisation organising talks, events and other activities among designers in Turkey and the UK.

More about the Alex Bettler Bread Workshop
Alex Bettler’s website

The ongoing saga of the month is the chimney, raising up just above our terrace, spewing black chunks of ash all over our pretty new terrace tiles as well as the tables, chairs and people enjoying the sunny Istanbul fall. The chimney is not ours, it belongs to the neighboring çarşı (market area). This particular çarşı is owned by a vakif (something between a foundation, a business association and a charitable trust), therefore having about a dozen owners, half of which are locatable, one of which is (sometimes) present in the neighborhood.

Our communication has been with the smily security guards, who, despite their complete lack of power, tried comfort us with their daily lies of ‘the worker will come this afternoon’ ‘we’ll come and take a look’ ‘tomorrow we will come’. The issue is this : the chimney used to be used for coal-burning oven, heating the shop below. It has since been converted to natural gas, but the chimney is so dirty, it continues to spew soot.

After two months of pleading, negotiating, threatening, crying, getting angry, being nice, bringing friends, going alone, it was clear that nothing was going to happen. I retreated, defeated, to the office of Ceylan Metal, (our renters and friends).  I told them the story and they kindly offered to take care of it.

I asked what they were going to do about it and they just said not to worry. They went on to explain how they did it in the villages, long ago. They would take a very lively, snow white chicken and stuff it down the top of the chimney. The chicken, in panic about its inability to fly, would desperately flap its wings as it tumbled down the shaft.  It would come out the bottom, pitch black, covered in the soot. Repeat if necessary. Great idea! The sell chickens in Eminönü!

A few days have passed, still no chickens or chimney sweeps. Off to scrub the terrace again.

Five people in all, cutting, folding, dipping, painting on, drawing on, collaging and otherwise working with paper.

Palatti, an international collective of artists, is here in Istanbul producing a commissioned piece for the Artist 2010, the Tuyap Art Fair, to take place October 30 – November 7.  Working in the Caravansarai production space are artists Audrey Bakx, Sara Pape, Betty Ras and Gerardo Gomez Tonda.

Our other resident is Stephanie Beck, who is here for one month exploring the architectural forms of Istanbul. She is constructing multi-sized domes, arches and vaults, eventually to be taken on a boat ride up the Halic. Check out her blog.  Stay tuned for the time and place…

One nagging unresolved issue at the building was the need for a dining room and office table. We went shopping and found nothing mildly acceptable for less than 9,000TL….no way.

Mumin Usta to the rescue! He came by one day with the bottom, iron part of an old-fashioned sewing machine table. At his house, he uses one of these for a table bottom and suggested we do the same. Only problem was that we needed two more sewing machines to make our tables.  I just happen to have one at my house, and he magically found another one from his mystic usta-circuit. With these and two gorgeous old pieces of oak, delivered from somewhere in Mersin, we had our tables!

Change is in the air, which was denoted by very simple conversation.

The workers have been coming much more infrequently. Mumin and a few of his boys had been stopping by in the mid-afternoon, working for a few hours, then hanging out till they got hungry for dinner. One such early afternoon Anika was trying out our new tea machine (the double-decker Turkish kind with the plain hot water on the bottom and teapot on the top) It’s not complicated to make Turkish tea, but you have to get the proportions right. She gave it her best guess and went downstairs to talk with the workers.

Up to this point at the building we were the guests of the workers as far as the tea was concerned. They would stop their work, order tea from the neighborhood tea maker and we would enjoy it together. This time was going to be different.

She asked the workers

“Would you like tea?”

They answered in surprise

“Is there tea?”

To which she answered

“There is tea.”

We were now the hosts, they were now the guests. It was now our building to which we were inviting them into. In the subsequent days we would serve tea most every day. They would smile and laugh a bit, amused, do doubt, that the two same girls who spent the last weeks scraping goo of the windows were capable of acting as such proper Turkish hosts.