In January of this year, Susan Yelavich was invited by the Iznik Foundation to visit their facilities in Istanbul and Iznik, Turkey. In 1993, the Iznik Foundation, under the directorship of Isil Akbaygil, recovered the 15th-century formula for creating Iznik tiles and has been actively producing both traditional and new iterations of the iconic patterned tiles. The original formula was lost in the 17th century when the Ottoman Empire’s finances declined and patronage for Iznik evaporated. These brilliantly-hued tiles, still to be seen in Topkapi Palace and in Istanbul’s most famous mosques, are made of 80% quartz, while most ceramics contain 15% to 20%. This gives them a particularly lustrous effect. In fact, the tiles are called Iznik Cini (Iznik China) reflecting the Ottoman’s admiration for Chinese porcelain.
Professor Yelavich’s interest in Iznik is related to her teaching on contemporary ornament and the Iznik Foundation’s collaborations with designers, from the late-Ettore Sottsass to Zaha Hadid. Yelavich plans to include a selection of contemporary Iznik tiles in an upcoming exhibition entitled “Deep Surface: Contemporary Ornament and Pattern,” which she is co-curating with Professor Denise Gonzales-Crisp (North Carolina State University) at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, NC. “Deep Surface” opens September 25th, 2011.