Pioneers from the academy in the history of design in Turkey and their first designs:
Sadi Öziş, the Turkish painter and sculptor stayed in France for 5 years, studied at Andre Lhote, Fernand Leger, Academie Julian ateliers and at Ecole de Louvre. He also worked with Paul Colin on stage and poster design. This article is based on his memories, documents and original furniture he presented to MSÜ Department of Industrial Design. Compared with today’s developed furniture industry, this humble enterprise may not seem spectacular, however, it had a very significant place in the 1950s Turkey where even wooden furniture was scarce.
İlhan Koman, Hadi Bara, Şadi Çalık and Sadi Öziş… These 4 people from the academy founded the Metal Sculpture Atelier and became the milestones in Turkish design history with the furniture they designed in the 50s. Despite tough times they created these “sculpture furniture” with extraordinary effort and persistance and we present this story through Sadi Öziş’s memories and documents.
A small group of artists at Mimar Sinan University started to produce the first examples of metal furniture at the Metal Sculpture Atelier they founded in 1950s.
In the Ottoman period in 1850s, apart from the first products of the European Industrial Revolution, foreign craftsmen lead the furniture industry. 100 years later this situation did not change much, it was still that way in 1950s Turkey. In addition to that the depression of the World War II was still effective. It was hard to find good quality wood for furniture production. Wood industry in those days meant fruit boxes, clogs, plain wardrobes, primitive house and office furniture. Therefore the furniture industry was not developed in the country and importing was almost impossible. Especially in the metal furniture area only examples were simple office cabinets.
METAL SCULPTURE ATELIER and the ARTISTS
The Metal Atelier founded in the 1950s enbaled a bunch of young artists – who would be very famous later – to work on metal furniture design. Therefore sculptors and decorators started the first metal furniture production in Turkey in 1950s which continued for many years. Those who purchased them around that time may still be using these metal furniture and this first production in a way is a milestone in Turkish design history.
In the Sculpture Department of the Academy, a metal atelier was founded in 1953. The manager was Nejat Sirel and he supported the efforts. İlhan Koman, Sadi Öziş, Hadi Bara and Zühtü Müridoğlu were interested in the new atelier and later on Şadi Çalık joined them and they started to work together in this atelier.
Let Prof.Sadi Öziş continue to tell the story: “…In the deprartment of sculpture, we founded the metal atelier. Equipment such as oxygen welder, electrical welder, spot welder was arriving. It was so hard to find these during that time. Finally everything was ready and in 1953 İlhan Koman, me and Şadi Çalık started to work in the new metal workshop.
“Since the beginning we were so enthusiastic. We were always looking for the better and newer.”
“While we were working on metal, a couple of students started to show interest in the atelier such as Kuzgun Acar, Tamer Başoğlu, Aloş, Samahat Acuner… Thus the first metal sculpters production in Turkey started in our atelier.” As a matter of fact the artists involved in this atelier had all studied abroad for years and became members of the Academy after coming back to Turkey.
” As a matter of fact in Painting/Sculpture competitions organized every year in Ankara, Sadi Öziş, İlhan Koman and Şadi Çalık has awards and their award winning pieces are still in the museum.”
“Nobody was interested in buying sculptures back then. We all needed a side income. That’s why we thought this was both art and furniture and started that way. That’s how we’vee started to design furniture.”
“To find the accurate measures in chair design we sat on the sand and made trials. When we found the best measurements on sand, we made plaster molds. We produced plaster samples using the mold and let everyone sit on the chair to experiment the measurements. Then we arranged metal bars on these samples to check the angles.”
PRODUCTION PROCESS of METAL FURNITURE
Moderno was a well known decoration company back then and showed interest in the artists’ metal furniture.
Moderno realized the importance of this atelier immediately and decided to open an atelier together with the artists. They spared a part of their own atelier in Elmadag for this job. Sadi Ozis and Ilhan Koman started to work in this atelier. It was built of wood and welding was dangerous in that atelier so they opened another atelier in Şişli. Sedad Hakkı Eldem was creating the best works of his life by then and he was also interested in this furniture. He decided to use them in the new hotel he was building in Kilyos. Artists were overwhelmed upon this demand because it means mass production. Sadi Öziş talks about the difficulty they had:
“… We were only interested in paintings, sculptures and fine arts in Paris. We never had metal furniture in mind. But then there was no decent furniture in Turkey. When we were working on these in the metal atelier, we were considering if Architect Fazıl Aysu and decorator Baki Aktar from the Academy are owners of this company. In fact, Moderno was the first address to apply for the graduates of Academy’s Decoration Department. In those days metal furniture the artists were working on was a significant design area in Europe. Famous architects, designers and artists were creating furniture with their own interpretation of the existing industrial products. 1950s were the beginning of the golden years of metal furniture throughout the world…
“… Sedad Hakkı was ordering continuously; 50 of this, 100 of that, 25 of those… The numbers were high and we panicked. We prepared the molds and employed qualified workmen through newspaper adds. Today’s well known names Ahmet Pilevneli and İsmail Sakız worked with us. We were producing and creating new designs at the same time. When the business started developing, relations wirh Moderno changed.
With the support of our friend Mazhar Süleymangil, we founded Kare Metal Atelier in Şişli. We bought the equipment, found the emplyees and started production. We were exhibiting the products in Moderno or in Oskar at Harbiye. Ahmet and İsmail worked very precisely. They have done a lot of good work later on working with many artists, archirects and decorators.” Artists continued to work on metal sculpture as well. They spent what they earned from furniture for sculpture. In 1958 things changed. There was a World Exhibition in Bussels and young architects such as Utarit İzgi, Muhlis Türkmen, Hamdi Şensoy and İlhan Türegün got the project for Turkey pavilion. Many artists participate in the pavilion such as İlhan Koman, Sabri Berkel, Namık Bayık, Gevher Bozkurt, Füreya Koral, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu and others. İlhan Koman’s metal tower sculpture and furniture are also used in the project. That year foumder of Art et Architecture d’Aujord’hui Andre Block was trying to form “Group Es-pace” in Paris. He wanted to contact some artists from Turkey. He heard about the metal furniture in the Academy. The designs were sent to Paris and they asked for the prototypes. However, the procedure of sending such a huge parcel from Turkey was very difficult both financially and bureucratically. Prof.Öziş continues to tell the story:
“… Nobody was interested in us but Knoll International. They invited Hadi Bara and me to Paris. Back then, you can only take 500 TL worth of foreign currency abroad. Knoll International’s Paris representative was very enthusiastic and we were invited to USA headquarters one week later with patents of the designs. It was only then that we realized we had to go to Switzerland with all the designs, photos and other documents for patent applications, complete the procedure and then go to USA. But all we have is 500 TL worth of money.
After a couple of more meetings it was understood how difficult, almost impossible for us to carry.”
Meanwhile artists continue designing new furniture. However İlhan Koman moved to Stockholm and the atelier is left to Sadi Öziş, In 1958 Şadi Çalık joined to worshop. Soon Şadi Çalık left too and Sadi Öziş founded Galeri T with his friend Gevher Bozkurt. They produced the first metal furniture using metal tube pipes. Sadi Öziş tells how they managed to come over the hardship: “… In that time there was nothing for producing metal furniture.