Present State and Problems

In the 21st century challenges facing Turkish handicraft production are multi-faceted. Migration from the villages to cities, increase in the machine production in accordance with the technological advancements, changes in cultural and social trends and habits, decrease in the amount and standards of raw materials, as well as the invasion of the market by the products of Asian and Far Eastern countries are some of the factors that have been influential in the regression of handicrafts (Arlı 2006). In addition, globalization affects cultural materialistic production negatively by shifting the production to parts of the world where manpower is relatively cheaper and ample. While handicrafts used to be perceived worldwide as the materialistic dimension of the national culture and seen as part of the public economics previously, today they are evaluated as the visual products of national heritage that can be most easily globalized (Oğuz 2002). Furthermore, the absence of an integrated state policy on handicrafts results in complications in their production, marketing, collection and exhibition (Teği and Erdoğan 2008). These factors altogether have led to the diminishing of the artisans’ knowledge to future generations, and thus the disappearance of handicrafts in Turkey.
In this paper the underlying problems of handicrafts in Turkey will be discussed in three headings:

Museuming (collecting and exhibiting)

In Turkey the formal institutions in charge of exhibiting handicrafts are Ethnography Museums. Table 1 presents an overview of current handicraft museums in Turkey. Museums and cultural heritage protection agencies in Turkey lack the appropriate status in which they need to be recognized as social bodies (transferring the past of the society) with political agendas (rendering conscious the society about its social and cultural structure) (Keleş 2003). The inadequate resources of museums and museuming works, lack of knowledge regarding museology, insufficient state subsidy all contribute to the deterioration and disappearance of the ethnographic materials from their environments.

Name Nominal Initiated Type of exhibitions Location
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum state 1913 calligraphy, tiles,
stone and wooden works, and rugs as well as ethnographic displays
Sadberk Hanım Museum private 1980 Ottoman and
Byzantine jewelry, tiles, ceramics, sculptures and steles, glass objects,
beads, coins, and coppers
Sakıp Sabancı Museum private 2002 Ottoman
calligraphic art and calligraphic tools
Yapı Kredi Vedat Nedim Tör
private 1992 collections of
antique coins, medallions, embroideries, cloths, worry beads, and
Pera Museum private 2005 Kütahya tiles and
ceramics (private collection)
The Great Palace Mosaic Museum state 1938 mosaics from the
Byzantine period
Topkapı Palace Museum state 1924 examples of Ottoman
architecture, miniatures, treasures and jewelry, collections of
porcelain, Islamic calligraphic murals and manuscripts
The Museum of Turkish
Calligraphic Art
state 1984 handwritten
manuscripts, sheets, sultans’ signatures, and miniatures
Tiled Kiosk Museum state 1953 tiles-, and ceramic
Handcrafts Museum
state handicrafts of
Kastamonu region
Kastamonu Ethnography Museum state 1997 handicrafts of
daily use, ethnographic works, copper kitchenware, weaving works and
traditional clothing
Adana Ethnography Museum state 1924 ethnographical
works, weaving, and stone works
Ankara Ethnographic Museum state 1928 wood-, glass-, and
tile-works, calligraphy, carpets, embroidery, Anatolian jewelry
State Museum of Painting and
state 1930 exhibitions of
painting, sculpture, ceramic, printing arts and photography

Marketing (initiating and promoting)

Marketing is considered as one of the major underlying challenges of handicrafts. Factors such as decrease in high quality raw materials, decline in the traditional standards of production as well as lack of the production of new designs which may create new marketing opportunities both at domestic and international scales lead to difficulties in marketing. In Turkey the marketing of handicrafts is mainly carried out by the private sector. For example, the craft of woven textile in Kastamonu, a national prominent kilim productionprovince, was doomed to be perished when a collaborative initiative was established in 1995 between the local producers and a large store with the efforts of the local government (Teği and Erdoğan 2008). Recently official institutions have also begun marketing handicrafts in Turkey. DÖSİM  (Operational Management of Traditional Handicrafts and Stores, was initiated as a subsidiary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 1979 to provide financial support for protecting and improving the cultural entities, and to raise funds for promotion activities. Most recently, GES  (Traditional Hand Crafts Stores Directorate) was established in 2005 within the organization of Ministry of Culture and Tourism to support the production, promotion and marketing of Turkish traditional handicrafts. In short, if handicraft activity is to proceed serving as a source of economic income, artisans need to have access to markets, and they need to be able to compete, either in price or in quality. It is possible that an improvement in infrastructure, both physical and political, as well as increased education in the field of handicrafts could impact the handicraft industry positively, but the sustainability of handicrafts production most likely requires more and better-coordinated support than is now available for creating new marketing opportunities for these local products.

Production (crafting)

The production of handicrafts in Turkey is organized by cooperatives, local governments, and mostly small and large-scale companies. In recent years many products produced in countries where cheap-labor is ample has entered the market and harmed Turkish handicrafts and craftsmen by creating an unfair product-market competition. In order to ensure the sustainability of handicrafts and promote its market value, large workshops and cooperatives that would support high-quality production are required.