Kütahya is located in western Turkey and has a population of 573,642. It is well known that Kütahya’s history is not only written with letters but also with tiles. The tiles refer to Kütahya being the centre of çini making – a ceramic ware using glass powder, quartz and clay. Çini is everywhere in the city’s landscape, covering public fountains, civic buildings and railroad stations. A centuries-old celebrated artistic tradition, çini has both a cultural and social function within the city. As of 2016, there are nearly 435 crafts workshops employing 15,000 craftsmen, of which 95% are related to çini production.
Kütahya hosts several national and international events to promote çini. This includes the International Çini Contest which recorded a participation of 33 different countries during its last edition and focuses on the promotion and development of çini. The Advanced Technology Center and Çini and the Ceramic Research and Implementation Centre are two institutions which predominantly concentrate on the research and development aspect of the çini’s raw materials. They also focus on further enhancing the technological components of its production in order to sustain resource efficiency and quality criteria.
The Municipality is undertaking a three-pronged development approach for cultural activities. Firstly, in order to promote greater access to cultural spaces, as well as capacity building, Kütahya’s Municipality allocates restored historical houses to craftspeople. Secondly, the Directorate of Culture and Tourism has started designating Kütahya’s artisans as candidates for Living Human Treasure recognition with a view to enhance their status within the creative sector. Thirdly, aimed at raising visibility and awareness, new spaces are being created to allow a major dissemination of cultural products, while important city areas are being decorated by local craftspeople.
As a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art, Kütahya envisages:
- undertaking detailed research on Çini design production in Kütahya with a view to passing this know-how to younger generations;
- increasing awareness and encouraging young people to undertake professional career paths in the crafts and folk art industries;
- developing a certification for Çini production by defining standards and production stages, increasing resource efficiency and environmental responsiveness;
- supporting the extension of the Network in under-represented regions and strengthen international cooperation through the sharing of experiences and knowledge, notably by providing technical assistance to African cities;
- bringing both public and private sectors, as well as the civil society, together to create spaces for research, certification and marketing in order to strengthen creation, production and dissemination of cultural goods and services; and
- supporting artists and craftspeople through dissemination of crafts and folk art products on different markets.