Artist creates portraits with Eskişehir’s unique mineral
ESKİŞEHİR - Anadolu Agency
Meerschaum artist Mehmet Başsav has been producing portraits using this mineral unique to Eskişehir. ‘Biggest richness for me is my artworks,’ he says. AA photoMehmet Başsav, a meerschaum portrait artist from the central Anatolian province of Eskişehir, has been a candidate for the Living Human Treasure awarded by UNESCO, as well as the traditional Turkish handicraft artist by the Culture and Tourism.
Working on meerschaum for 52 years, Başsav has so far created lots of products such as pipe, miniature bust, sculpture, mask and reliefs.
Displaying his 200 artworks in the art house at the Eskişehir Municipality Touristic Handicrafts Center, Başsav said that since apprentices were not trained in the field of meerschaum, they were planning to train the artists of the future during classes to be opened for fine arts students in the city.
He said that their goal was to improve the profession, and continued: “During 1960s and 1970s, some people were bringing their children to learn how to process meerschaum. We were training children. Later on, we could not find apprentices in the sector. Now some young people ask me ‘you have been involving with this profession, how much money did you earn?’ If I tell them I have very good income, and have many houses, they would come to learn it. I love my job. My main assistant is my wife. I am still working at the age of 70.”
The artist said that he was happy with his life, adding, “UNESCO told me that I am in the queue to be one of the Living Human Treasures. I trained four apprentices. There are those who retire from this job. I am not a billionaire but the biggest richness for me is my artworks.”
Mineral discovered in Vienna
Başsav said that Eskişehir was home to the world’s richest meerschaum, and the mineral was light, enduring high temperatures and absorbent.
Başsav said that when it was abundant, meerschaum was used as heat insulation in the ground of houses. “Today a meerschaum the size of a palm is 70 Turkish Liras. This is why it is not used for heat insulation. Also, the dust of meerschaum used to be put in wedding chests in the past. It is also said that since it absorbs bad weather, it is placed in front of windows. When this mineral was discovered by manufacturers in Vienna, it asked for it from Turkey and began processing it. As the number of meerschaum masters increased in Eskişehir, they applied to the ministry to ban its export to Europe ad it was approved. Then meerschaum began to be processed in Eskişehir only,” he said, adding that Eskişehir became known all around the world thanks to those masters.
He noted that the biggest problem of meerschaum masters was that they were not able to market their products. He also refused the claim that Eskişehir was experiencing a shortage of meerschaum mineral, saying that they were expecting more interest from people.