Jewellery designer Orge Tulga, who is a graduate of the Statistics Department at Middle East Technical University, listened to her inner voice and turned her hobby into her profession after years of working in data processing in the business world. When she came to Istanbul from Ankara, she trained with designer Zeynep Erol to improve her skills. The following year, she took classes with two adept jewellery mounters in the Grand Bazaar. Later, she worked with Mehmet Kabas, founder of URART. She learned from Kabas how to form a collection whose pieces come together to tell a story. We met Tulga last month as a part of the Istanbul Modern Design Meetings. She says that the ability to use different techniques profoundly helped her with her professional design career. She recounts that her career as a professional designer began when she accepted a friend’s offer: “I was asked to create a collection for an event organised by the Friends of Catalhoyuk Association. I prepared a collection with 12 pieces. I took the geographical and historical features of the region into consideration while designing the pieces, which were made of silver. Inspired by the excavations that were being carried out at the time, I highlighted the wall figures in my ‘Catalhoyuk’ collection”. Despite the fact that the event did not take place, Tulga did not lose her motivation and immediately prepared her ‘Halkalar ve Taslar’ (‘Rings and Stones’) collection. Another important opportunity arose when Hazer Ozil, the owner of Dirimart Gallery, wanted to see her designs. With Ozil’s support, she opened her first exhibition at Gallery Artist in May 2002.
The fact that she sold 115 pieces in three weeks motivated her even more and she opened her first atelier on Tavuk Pazari Street in the Grand Bazaar. Then, she received an offer to design a collection for the Louvre Museum Store in Paris. She was even provided with access to the Islamic Arts museum archive to help create and build her collection. Given this opportunity, Tulga composed her ‘Iznik Collection’, which was inspired by Iznik ceramics, but with her own artistic twist. However, when the opening of the Louvre Museum Store was postponed to 2011, she put this collection up for sale in Turkey without further delay. All of these experiences helped to hone her skills. Before preparing her collections, she conducts indepth research and then draws out her patterns, trying to make wearable objects out of her designs and motifs. Afterwards, she goes to the Grand Bazaar and exchanges ideas with jewellery mounters and begins the production process. First, she draws the models and then they are made into moulds. Then, she decides what type of metal to use and pours it into the moulds. If stones are going to be added to the pieces, they send them for nailing. If there are additional materials that require expertise, the help of a skilled professional will be enlisted. For example, if enamel is required, the master of enamelling will work on the piece. To finish, the piece is polished. Tulga emphasises that she doesn’t experiment with very different materials, but generally insists on silver and gold. As for the stone choices, she chooses from among semi-precious stones and zircon. Previously, she generally preferred silver, but more recently she has used gold coating or black bedding on silver. Even her personal style preference is to wear gold and silver.
Tulga likes wearing pieces from other collections, and follows local and foreign designers in order not to limit herself. Tulga tries to create at least one collection a year. One of her most popular collections has been ‘Hayal’ (‘Dream’). She created orbs with different motifs on each; the motifs were inspired by the way microorganisms look under a microscope. As in this collection, each of her collections has a specific theme. For example, ‘Iz Pesinde’ (‘Following Traces’), which she started working on last year, was inspired by iron doors and their engravings. She says the balconies in Beyoglu are the inspiration for her next collection. Her desire is that when someone looks at a piece of her jewellery that they are able to recognise it as her work. Every piece is different from all the others, but each has her unique characteristic touch. Usually, she uses silver with 925 fineness and gold with 18 fineness. Upon special order, she creates pieces based on her existing models. Until two years ago, Tulga had her own workshop, but now, she is working in different workshops. She explains: “I am at the Grand Bazaar all the time. The spirit of old Istanbul that is reflected in my work comes from my presence there”. Tulga’s designs can be found in stores at the Istanbul Modern and at the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV). Additionally, they can be purchased from Kose Dukkan and Bazen Alacati in Alacati. Tulga plans to offer online shopping via her website in 2015.