Mesut Usta has the warmest and most contagious smile in the coppersmith market. Almost every Turkish city has such a market, in which studios are lined up with coppersmiths. If you want to find them, you usually just have to follow the hammering.
Unfortunately, most markets are now purely tourist attractions and very few copper items are actually hand-engraved here. Most of the trays that go over the counter here are pressed by heavy machinery and few shoppers notice the difference.
It used to be different. My grandparents still used copper pots for their daily cooking. They had to be polished at regular intervals. Going to the coppersmith market was routine for them and the background noise of hammer and chisel echoing from the market was deafening. “Back then people got headaches when they were with us. Today it only sounds here and there,” says Mesut Usta.
Mesut Usta has been hammering beautiful motifs onto copper for 38 years. The fact that you can draw such filigree patterns with force not only seems paradoxical, but also fascinates. I could watch him for hours - if only it weren't so loud! "How do you stand it here?" I ask after a few hours in his studio. He looks at me mischievously: "It sounds like a lullaby to me, it makes me sleepy," he says and grins: "If I don't work for a day, I miss that sound. It's like our brains are imprinted on that sound.” I believe him. He can't keep still for a second, even when he promises, he doesn't last a minute without banging - entertaining with banging, eating with banging, drinking tea with banging, that's Mesut Usta's world. "If I'm at home on Sundays and can't work, I get bored," he says. "What does your wife think about that?" I want to know. "'You've stayed at home long enough, go, go,' she says," he says, and of course he laughs.
We want to know what it was like for him as an apprentice. How do you learn this blacksmithing? "With the hose," says Mesut Usta. With the hose? "Back then, it was still customary to give your child an apprenticeship with the words: 'You get the meat, I'll keep the bones (1)'," he explains, "that's how you learn out of fear (of the hose ) everything. In our time, you didn't say you couldn't do something. You said, "Of course, Usta" and did whatever task your Usta gave you."
Mesut Usta also knows the old motifs from his apprenticeship days, which are hardly ever engraved anymore and which he brought back to life for the NOA collection and engraved millimeter by millimeter by hand on the trays and oil dispensers.
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(1) A Turkish proverb. As long as the bones stay whole, it's yours. You can do anything with him.