The Secret of Stone...

We had a conversation focusing on mosaics with Neslihan Zabcı Erdal who has decorated Bodrum. We talked about the arts of mosaics, ceramics, and sculpture; she has much to say about this subject and also about her projects.

Could you please tell us about yourself? When was the first time you were involved with arts?
I lived in Istanbul for a long time. After finishing Robert College in Istanbul in 1975, I went to the U.K. for graphic design training. In the early 80s I was in Northern California and then in Istanbul, I worked as an independent designer in the fields of graphics, textile patterns, and wallpaper patterns and in 1982, I founded the “Ceramic Atelier Lilac”. Moreover, the year I decided to move to Bodrum was 2000. First, I set up a painting workshop in a small old stone house in a remote mountain village. However, the dwelling I was in and nature surrounding me made me feel that I should do mosaics. This piece of art, which has made me excited since I was a child by the artifacts of the Greek and Roman civilisations, Bedri Rahmi and Gaudi, has become a part of my life. At a mosaic class, which I attended in the Ravenna province of Italy, I learned how to work using original Byzantine methods and materials, and thus, in Turkey, I have started my unique mosaic works using the materials, which I am able to provide in Bodrum, using my own methods, patterns and point of view.

Every stage I encounter which needs to be solved in creating a mosaic excites me. As I do not work using a single material or technique, the first stage makes me feel like I am seeking for the first piece of a puzzle. Patterns, sizes, colours and most of all, my state of mind make me decide on what material to use. Commonly, glass, broken ceramics, pebbles, seashells, smalti or self-made ceramic pieces accompany my works.

Now, my workshop is in Ortakent, in a tangerine garden. In the environment where I live, there are the lives which still inspire me, olive trees, stones, rocks, mountains, cactuses, sunsets, deep sea, lizards, and chameleons ...etc.

Your art studio is called Bukalemunart (English: chameleonart), let us touch on this subject. What inspired you to choose the name?
I use variable materials in mosaics. I decided the name “chameleon” as I was inspired by the colours of these materials, which I admire. Another reason to prefer the name is; I have lived in different countries, I feel I can easily adapt to where I go. This is the best-known characteristic of a chameleon too.

Could you tell us about your works?
I have been creating wall panels of ceramics and mosaics for interior walls and exterior facades, sculptures and decorative architectural accessories. Mosaics can be applied to wall panels, walls, floors, bathrooms, kitchen countertops, tables, swimming pool liners, fireplaces, windows and numerous other surfaces. Glass mosaics, ceramics, cast glasses, stones, marbles, and pebbles can be used individually or in combination on the panels. Currently, mosaics are very common in the world. In this respect, I have been involved in various projects in the world.

Can you find work areas where you can display your art?
One of my first days when I came to Bodrum, I went to the Mayor, stated that I wanted to do something for Ortakent and in this way I made the niches located in the centre. It has been my gift to Ortakent. Many people met with mosaic art after seeing my works on the pots of the trees in Bodrum. I thought it would be nice to have concrete pots built around the trees covered with mosaics, and I shared this idea with the municipality.

We found a sponsor for each tree, and with my team that supported me, we covered 39 of the 43 trees with mosaic patterns in 3 years. Tiles, coloured glazed ceramics are materials suitable for exterior applications at large sizes. Mostly, I used broken ceramics. I made a list containing the topics describing Bodrum such as social life, culture, history, etc. and made studies on the pots that reflect these issues. The trees have become even more beautiful with the mosaics. In fact, this study offers you the opportunity to watch Bodrum along the way. Seashells, octopuses, owls, Bodrum houses, snakes, pomegranates, scorpions, seabreams, groupers, sails, cactuses, camels, tangerines...

Do you have any new project ideas that you dream of realising for the streets of Bodrum?
The benches made of concrete are able to be covered with mosaics. I would like to do mosaic work on the benches in Bodrum. I do care about the works done for the town in the public spaces. In this way, people can see the artistic work and be happy.

Would you also share information about the artistic work you have done abroad?
In 2014, a very large mosaic project was carried out in Chile. In a small and poor city with the initiatives of the municipality, we as a team of about 150 people made mosaic work in an area of 4000 square metres. We covered about 80 columns on the metro road with mosaics. With the support of the municipality, Puente Alto became a city, which is known for its mosaics in Chile. Two years ago, I participated in a project to coat mosaics for a church that was about to collapse in Italy.