In 2012, me and my colleague Didem organised a collaborative making workshop with designer and bread guru Alex Bettler as initiative TRUK (Turkey / United Kingdom)

We organised the workshop in one of the most authentic neighbourhoods of Istanbul, namely Karakoy, area occupied by little shops of sea tradesmen, metal and wood workers but undergoing big development projects and gentrification. We have chosen Caravansarai as our venue, a workshop space owned by Julie and Anne, two expats living in and loving Istanbul.

Workshop started with Alex going through his presentation on history of bread and his own experiences with bread as a designer. He took us through the particulars of the craft and showed some slides of his workshops at different locations in Europe.

We kicked off by making our dough made of yogurt, yeast, water, salt, flour, the very basic materials which needed to be measured carefully. During the making, Alex went around to check if the density of the dough mix was right. We realized that we had bought more material than one could do so everyone was encouraged to make as much as bread they like.

Once the mixing was done, participants waited for about an hour until the yeast made the bread rise. During the break time, some of the participants went to get some extra materials to garnish their bread so they added those in on top while they were giving their bread shape.

So started the fun part, shaping the bread!

Some participants worked in pairs and create bigger and more elaborate pieces, while others choose to shape their own bread. There were a lot of  fun of laughing and joking during the collaborative making as well as some quiet and concentrated working.

Participants laid down their bread on the tin-foil trays and put a cover on top. We made friends with a neighboring pide baker’s shop to help us out by letting us use their stove to cook our bread. We took our trays down this bakery shop. As there were many of us with a lot of dough to bake, we travelled to the bakery in bulks.

By the end of the day there were so many baked bread that we then went on the streets to give those away for donation. Construction builders, artisans and labourers in the neighbourhood were happy to take them home to their families.

While waiting for the bread to cook, some of us got breakfast supplies such as olives, feta cheese, fresh veggies as well as some juice, wine for an afternoon tea time. As the workshop was going for 4 hours by now, we were hungry and tired.

We cleaned the table laid down our grocery shopping, ate each other’s bread, drank tea and chated. This was such a good way to end our day and celebrate our joint effort.

Learnings

Two practical:

  • For each participant we asked for 25 Turkish Liras (around £5) to keep the fee at minimum and cover the cost of the materials plus the rent. By the end of the day, we were at 100 liras minus our budget. Learning was to always overestimate how much we can spend and that there are always extra costs coming last minute!

  • Having plastic aprons and asking participants to write their names on them as a nice idea by Alex. As well as the tin foil baking trays which made it easy for us to carry the dough across the street to the bakery.

One observational:

  • During this workshop I learned to assist those who are sceptical about the idea by spending a bit more time with them. As in adults, much like in children, this is something I always encounter during the workshops: There are people who like the idea of play and enjoy themselves in the free flow of making. On the contrary there are always few who feel too undirected and need the urge to be told exactly what they need to do in order to participate in the workshop. I had the balance this by leaving the creative players on their own joy and assist those who feel lost by talking to them around the idea of collaborative making.