Unfortunately, my internet connection wasn’t particularly fast or reliable so I decided to post everything when I got home.
My intent for this website is for it to be a repository of my research
and to foster conversation and debate about medieval Central and Western Asia.
I am a graduate student but I don’t go back until the fall, so I will have time to get much of the information I have online so that it will hopefully be useful.
I have begun a blog on this website for research, but I’ve decided to add this second blog, about travel. I felt that many people would be interested in one topic but not the other so I thought separating them might make this more
I do feel that I need to express some gratitude. I have wanted to make this journey for many years but my dear friend Melissa Wolfley gave me the kick in the pants that I needed. She works for an airline and offered to make me her designated travel companion for the year. This is incredibly generous and brought the most expensive part of the trip, the airfare, within reach.
As I began to gather the resources I needed to make the trip, unexpected generosity arrived from many directions. Two ladies who have asked to remain anonymous chose to sponsor my stay in Istanbul, each for several days. They have both been mentors to me since I was a very young woman and I am still stunned and grateful for their generosity.
Two other wonderful mentors from the Society for Creative Anachronism founded a memorial grant in honor of a mutual friend who passed away recently. The MacGumerait Grant is in memory of Ld. Aoghann MacGumerait (Lonnie Harvel). The grant is for SCA artisans and researchers in the areas of costuming, performing arts and food. I am excited and honored to be the first recipient of this grant and I hope that I have done them all
A professional photographer and dear friend, Tamara Di Firenze, asked me what camera I planned to take with me and when I shrugged and said I was taking my small point and shoot she objected strenuously. She loaned me a wonderful cameral with all the gadgets and toys and I am honored that she was willing to trust me with her equipment. I am thrilled with the pictures I took and want to say right now that they are the result of very good equipment and brilliant subject matter, not my skill. Tamara and her husband Finn also gave me wonderful travel advice including a source
for affordable travel insurance and loaned me several wonderful travel
My husband, though not able to make the trip with me was incredibly supportive although I know he was not happy to have me away for so long. I missed him terribly and can’t wait to take him back with me.
My first dance teacher, Carla Monnich, and her husband Ted, a museum professional saved me endless frustration and opened many wonderful doors for me in Istanbul and I adore them both. Carla spent a lot of time on the phone with me and on email, giving me very specific instructions about how to find the things in Istanbul that were important to me and saving me endless aggravation with advice on how to function as a foreigner in Turkey and deal with the maddeningly aggressive and persistent touts that try to lure you into‘their’ restaurants and carpets shops. (More on those guys, later).
Carla and Ted's website with travel information
was really useful, too. They are part of a fantastic band called Turku, here’s their website. http://www.turkumusic.com/
They also provided an introduction to their friend Bob Beer, an American who lives in Istanbul. And I have to say that Bob is one of the most charming people I have ever met. He generously provided practical advice, friendship, social and historical context, a tour of the music and knitting scenes in Istanbul and several invitations to parties with interesting, charming people. He was my guide into the parts of Istanbul that made me feel that I could find a home there.
After airfare, lodging is generally the most expensive part of any trip. Carla introduced me to airbnb.com. It’s a website that connects travelers who want a non-hotel experience with locals who are willing to rent rooms in their homes and apartments. Providence led me to Basma and her wonderful
flat, convenient to Sultanahmet and all the places I wanted to be. Not only were the accommodations incredibly inexpensive compared to a hotel or hostel, but she provided local knowledge and advice, wonderful food and
made it possible for me to meet many locals as well as other travelers from the
USand all over the Middle East. It would not have been as rich and wonderful a trip without her and I am pleased to say that when the trip began, she was a gracious host, and when it ended, she was a friend.
The purpose of my trip was to conduct research for a book I am writing on Ottoman tailoring methods for ceremonial caftans and other garments. Most of the published research on Ottoman clothing has focused on the social and political uses to which these garments were put and the incredible skill and virtuosity required to weave the textiles from which they are made.
I have been pulling together information about the caftans for many years. I have studied as many books on the subject as I could find, visited museums and traveling exhibits in the US and attempted to reconstruct these garments using the most appropriate methods and materials available to me. (Check my 'photos' page for a few examples)
But it is the construction and tailoring methods that have been the hardest to document. When garments are displayed in museums and photographed for books, they are generally displayed to show the fabrics to their best advantage. This means that many details of cut and construction are obscured.
I spent a total of 14 hours in the caftan gallery at the Topkapi. I was not able to gain permission to work in the collections not on display, but I was able to learn a great deal from the items that were on display. I will continue to work to gain access to the collections as Topkapi as well as the Victoriaand Albert in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. I’ve been told by my contacts that it just takes
I will be providing details of my work in the past and on this trip on this website and I have invitations to give several presentations over the next year in the Southeastern United States. (If you have an interest in hosting a presentation at one of your events, contact me privately and I will see what I can do.)
So the results of my research and the sources I was able to study will be made available on my Silk Road Conjectures blog. This travel blog will with deal with my travels and additional interests. I’ve been involved in the international dance community for many years and I love world music and
dance of all types. I had the opportunity to dance with the Romani (‘gypsies’), explore antique shops, acquire antique textiles and textile tools and shop in the bazaars.
I’ll tell you all about this stuff, and the food and street life and wonderful folks I met here. I’m going to arrange this blog in chronological order, and then afterwards there are several topics that I want to discuss separately like Turkish women’s fashion and modesty, expat communities, food, practical stuff you might want to know if you want to make a trip like mine, dance and probably some other stuff. I would appreciate it if you would leave comments to let me know what you want to hear more about and I’ll do my best.
I am also hoping to fit in another trip before my travel
benefits expire at the end of the year. To that end, I’m creating a page on the website to sell a few of the things I brought back, as well as some stuff that I’ve had for awhile and possibly some clothing commissions. I was really inspired to de-clutter while I was there and so I hope to use that impetus to give me the start of a travel fund.
So, here we go.