Coppersmithing in Antep

Between December 2020 and May 2021, I lived in Gaziantep Turkey (colloquially known as Antep) and learned copper engraving in the Antep tradition from a local master. This is a mostly chronological ordering of the things I worked on there.

Above is the scrap plate that I was given to practice making lines and simple designs.

The other picture shows me working on it (you can see I’m holding the chisel kinda awkwardly, because I just started learning). The plate of tinned copper is fixed to a heavy log so it doesn’t shake when engraving

Here’s a closer look at the basic tools:

The chisel is called a “Kalem” in turkish, which literally translates to pen.

Right after finishing the plate, I started on a small pail:

My teacher, Şahab (pronounced Shahab) layed out the design, and drew one section on the pail, after which I copied to fill in the rest and engraved over the lines

Then a large pail

The design process was the same as the smaller pail.

This is me working on the pail:

I did some animals on a large platter which was already mostly decorated by stamping:

Deers/Gazelles and birds are common motifs in the Antep engraved copper. Above I was attempting to make a gazelle and a heron and a simple graphical style, but a little more naturalistically than the traditional designs.

Here’s a piece of Şahab’s with birds and deer:

In these next two, I was trying to do something a little more inbetween. Closer to the traditional style, but referencing particular recognizable animals:

I think the first is supposed to be a crane, but I don’t exactly remember what type of animal the second was supposed to be exactly.

Şahab did the layout for this pitcher, but the designs within the sections are my own. I did them in the traditional style, borrowing elements from pieces of his. The first two pictures are before and after tinning. The forms for previous pieces I had done were finished forms that Şahab had lying around his shop, so they were already tinned. Typically the pieces are engraved on the raw copper, then the engraved lines are colored and the object is tinned. Extra elements like handles are added at the end. That’s how I did this one.

For laying out a design, compasses are used. You can use them to mark circles, measure distances, and mark lines parallel to an already engraved line by running them through the groove made by the engraving

This is the process of finishing a raw copper piece into a tinned and colored piece:

With this Kiddush Cup (Jewish ritual cup) I experimented a little with hebrew lettering, and designs outside the traditional turkish style. The form was already tinned and decorated with that line of stamps on the top edge before I engraved on it.

I did some apprenticeship work for Şahab. Two of these pictures are from this pan I did for a Baklava place and the other is engraved with the name of a client on it.

I did some experimenting with engraving on plastic:

This was a quick test design in the turkish style on a small plastic container. We put the container to good use (storing a tasty date spread).

I made an attempt at engraving a piece of plastic as a print plate.

The prints didn’t come out so clearly, and I accidentally made the text backwards...

I engraved two brass mortars and pestles, Both older items that Şahab had lying around:

The first was Şahab’s design. The second had eight panels, so I engraved each with a different image from the hebrew bible. Coppersmithing in Antep used to be a primarily Jewish trade (back when there were Jews around here), so I like the idea of inserting Jewish imagery into the traditional turkish motifs.  

Clockwise from top left: Balaam’s donkey, Aaron’s staff/snake, Ram in the thicket, Dove with the olive branch, Burning bush, Grains, Tree of life, Grapes

Next I engraved a plate, using an old, already tinned (and rather dusty) plate that Şahab had in his shop. Continuing with the Jewish theme, it’s intended as a plate to hold candles for the Sabbath. The two spots in the middle are for the two traditional candles.

Above is before before the lined were colored, below after.

I think it worked better before, when the two circles in the middle were shiny.

This teapot in progress has a verse from the book of Proverbs that’s also recited in weekly jewish liturgy in the negative space of a seemingly random Turkish-style design.

 Last I’m fully engraving this cheap plastic pitcher. Also in progress: