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[Folk Arts] [Plastic folk arts]


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Leather is natural material made of animal skin and fur. The animals, skins of which are most commonly used, are cows, calves, sheep, lambs, goats, capricorns, horses, bisons, pigs and snakes. Stockbreeding was very important in the lives of nomadic Turks of Central Asia. They could process the leather they obtained from the animals and produce commodities. In diggings performed in Siberia and Altay Mountains, many clothes, boots, caps, tents, horse couplings, weapons and pots made of leather were found. Tanning kept its importance during ages of Seljuks and Sultanates and important leather centers were established in Kayseri, Diyarbakir and Kastamonu.

Although tanning was performed in nearly all big cities in 15th and 16th centuries during Ottoman reign, the most important centers were Istanbul, Edirne, Kayseri, Ankara, Bursa, Konya, Tokat, Diyarbakir and Urfa. Leather painting developed beyond tanning and especially sahtiyan (goat skin) painted with Turkish Red (alizarin) came into favor among foreign merchants. According to J.B. Tavernier, a French traveler who traveled in Anatolia in 17th century, the most beautiful morocco leather was produced in Tokat, red sahtiyan (goat skin) in Diyarbakır, yellow sahtiyan (goat skin) in Musul and black sahtiyan (goat skin) in Urfa. The most important leather centers in Istanbul were in Kazlicesme, Kasimpasa and Uskudar.

One of the areas the leather is mostly utilized in is flat-heeled shoe making. There are five types of flat-heeled shoes worn on feet. These are; Halebi, Merkup, pointed, long lug and curved silver. Flat-heeled shoes are generally black, purple and red in color.

Another leather dressing product is sled. The sleds, which are made of water buffalo or ox skin, are cut in foot size, holes are drilled on sides, thongs are passed through these holes and tied. Sleds, which could be made even by the person who wore them, are made today by craftsmen for folk dance and shows.

One of the most important areas among traditional arts in which leather is utilized is shadow play. Shadow play is performed by forming reflections on white screen by giving back light to figures of humans, animals, plants or articles cut out from leather. The most famous shadow play is Karagoz and Hacivat. The figures utilized in play are made of camel, horse and donkey skins which are made transparent. The leather cut out and prepared with respect to figures is painted on both sides and the parts prepared are mounted with a special bondage method. Finally, holes are drilled for the sticks used to move the figures and sticks are mounted.

Leather is used in many areas; one of those is binding art. Leather binding covers, are decorated with golden and silver veneer, various colors and various patterns.

Today, leather is still utilized for the production of horse couplings, agricultural tools and kitchen utensils.