Career Interview: Blacksmith in Safranbolu

Ever thought of a career switch? We’ve met many professionals on this trip that we were never be exposed to at home. Talking to these people has given us interesting perspectives on their trade and local culture. I thought we’d start sharing some of these conversations.

The Turkish town of Safranbolu has long been known as an artisan center, particularly for its leather shoes, textiles, wooden artifacts and metalwork. We meandered around the various workshops and stores and were treated to a (mostly) English speaking conversation with Kazim Madenoglu, a blacksmith.

Diya: How did you get into working with metal?

Kazim: My father and my father’s father owned these workshops. I learnt from them. I have three girls now, and this is a man’s work. No one wants to learn the trade. Once I go, all of this will be sold for nothing and the stores will close down.

Diya: Tell us something about your profession that is unique.

Kazim: See these door knockers? No two are the same and each has a different sound. Traditional Ottoman houses have two knockers, a large one used by men to alert the women inside to hide, and a small one used by women to tell the men inside to disappear.

Diya: How does one become successful in this line of work?

Kazim: You have to have my wife. I make everything but only she knows how to sell anything.

Diya: What do you like about Safranbolu?

Kazim: I have lived here all my life so I like everything. It is a small town. That’s good.

Every country we have visited has had examples of artisan industries dying out. As our world modernizes, intricate labor gets replaced by more efficient machinery and trades that were passed on through generations become at risk of extinction. Kazim is just over 40 and has many years left to practice his trade. Unfortunately, less people are buying his artifacts. Door knockers are less used in the traditional sense and are now objects of decoration for the passing tourist. For the indefinite future, all of Kazim’s heart and knowledge will be poured into his workshop. In front of Kazim’s store is a sign in Turkish. He makes it a point to show it to us. The translation is “By the time the iron becomes a griddle, the coal will have turned to ash. By the time one finally comes to his senses, his life will have passed him by in a flash.”

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