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Sedef is theTurkish name of mother of pearl and is widely used in traditional arts asinlay. Especially during the Ottoman period it became very popular and manyinlay objects and furniture was made between 15th and 19th centuries. Themother of pearl is obtained from the interior of the pearl oyster shell whichwas usually imported from Asia, than local artists worked it on the wood makingremarkable chairs, tables, boxes, chest of drawers, mirror frames, and so on.This type of art was widespread in all Anatolia and the Middle East.
The quality ofthe mother of pearl is very important. All shelled mollusks possess a shellwith a sort of mother of pearl, but the freshwater mollusks are one of the bestbecause they provide large flat pearl blanks and are milk white to create anice contrast on dark wood, thus these are the prefered ones. It's not easy toconvert an arched shell to flat pieces for inlay blanks, but it's thecraftmen's skill. Also the wood has to be good quality, usually walnut,mahogany or rose wood is selected.
In the Sedefinlay technique, the craftsman (Sedefkar in Turkish) first draws his design onthe wood cutting out the lines, than inserts the brass or silver wire in theselines with the help of a small hammer; this is called "tel cekme" or"telkari" technique. Than he slightly cuts out the areas betweenthese wires in order to place the mother of pearl blanks that are cut accordingto the shape of the design. The craftsman glues them in their spot than waitsfor a couple of days to dry before sandpapering and waxing. Besides the motherof pearl, also tortoise shell, camel bones and ivory can be mixed to decoratethe design of Sedef furniture. Usually floral designs are used.
Today, there arefew artists left in this business. Especially Gaziantep is one of the citieswhere one can still experience hand made art of the mother of pearl inlaytradition.