Dervish by Kunter Şekercioğlu: Coffee Cup is Back to its Origin

Tolga Yilmaz Ceramics Art + Perception 106 2017 Technical, Editors Choice Home

Designed by Kunter Şekercioğlu and produced in his own workshop called Kilit Taşı (Keystone), Dervish is a Turkish coffee cup and its plate, made of porcelain (see image on previous page). This design was awarded the Design Turkey – Superior Design Award in 2010, and Observeur du Design in 2011. Unlike modern Turkish coffee cups that show us the coffee culture of Ottoman royal traditions, Dervish reflects the Sufi background of coffee in Anatolia prior to the 16th century and reminds us of the real origins of coffee in Anatolia and our culture.

Kunter Şekercioğlu has been working as a freelance designer since 1996. He has been given important awards in the field of industrial design such as Good Design Award and German Design Award. Since 2002, he has been designing and producing various products in his studio, products that mostly reflect local and regional cultural elements and influences.1 He explains the presence of strong cultural references in his products and the cultural elements influencing his design processes as follows: “I believe in the inseparability of aesthetics and functionality, but I also value cultural habits, craftsmanship, history and the details of daily life as triggering factors for my designs.” Şekercioğlu is one of the successful Modern Craftsmen, who are quite rare today, since he designs and produces his products in his own studio by being completely involved in design and production processes, and he gives importance to craftsmanship, and works hard to reflect and convey local and regional culture by using his knowledge and experience.

I believe in the inseparability of aesthetics and functionality, but I also value cultural habits, craftsmanship, history and the details of daily life ..

The roots of coffee in Anatolia date back to Sufi traditions and culture since there were a lot of myths about it and it was used as a drink during rituals. The most powerful and popular Sufi sect in Anatolia is called Mevlevi (whirling dervishes) and they wear plain white dresses (called tennure) during the whirling ritual (Sema ayini in Turkish). The plain and unornamented body of Dervish reflects the purity and plainness of these dresses and also the ritual itself. The most impressive and unforgettable visual element of whirling ritual is skirts moving up like waves, since dervishes whirl continuously for a long time. The bottom part of Dervish, which can be defined as both “zarf” and plate, is a strong reference to the wavy image of dervishes’ skirts; in other words, it is a reference to the whirling ritual. Designed without a handle, Dervish reflects the presence of coffee cups that were plain and without handles prior to 19th century.

With his Dervish design, Şekercioğlu highlights the real roots of coffee in Anatolia and reminds us of its Sufi/Mevlevi origin. And this reminder focuses on tolerance, which is the fundamental component of Mevlevi culture. Moreover, Şekercioğlu emphasizes cultural meanings of coffee such as being a sincere drink accompanying a nice chat and the possibility of making it bitter or sweet, and even with pepper and salt on some occasions.

Unlike regular cups, the cup unit of Dervish was designed as double-walled. This design decision, which normally causes considerable quantities of wastage close to the upper acceptable limits in industrial production processes and requires the application of hand-craftsmanship later, makes it a potential work of craftsmanship in parallel with the approach of the designer. The main reason of such a design is based on the form and cultural background of Dervish. It was necessary to have a plain and unornamented design in this product since it was meant to reflect the culture of Mevlevi dervishes and the cultural origins of coffee in Anatolia. Therefore, a handle to spoil this plainness was not preferred in the design. Thanks to its two-wall design, the cup can easily be grabbed, coffee keeps its heat longer since the outer layer extends the thermal bridge, and the cup can be easily held since heat does not reach the outer layer. Another challenge faced in the design is to make the area where the two walls meet (rim of the cup where it contacts lips) as thin as practical for pleasant sipping.

The plate and the cup are considered a full unit, and the curves of plate that reflect the waving skirts of dervishes make it easier to hold and grip the cup while carrying.

Porcelain clay is used in the production of cup and plate. The plate is produced in two-piece molds, and a four-piece mold is used for the cup. The cups taken out of the mold are later processed by hand on wheels. After the wheel phase, a surface finishing process is applied to both the plate and the cup. The next phase is biscuit firing, during which wastage ratio is very high. The product is finalized after glazing phase and glaze firing.

Thanks to its two-wall design, the cup can easily be grabbed, coffee keeps its heat longer since the outer layer extends the thermal bridge, and the cup can be easily held since heat does not reach the outer layer

Şekercioğlu strongly reflects both design practices and the roots of Turkish coffee with his design Dervish and assumes the role of a bridge between the root and today for both issues mentioned above. As a modern craftsman, Şekercioğlu has been quite successful not only in the design process but also in production and even marketing. He was able to keep himself out of today’s popular industrial paradigms in his own studio. He didn’t use popular and well known ornaments in this design but searched for the real humble and modest roots of Turkish coffee, which is Sufi mysticism rather than the glamorous royal life of the Ottomans. In short, he conveyed this essence to the present time and the future through his product and connected the artist/craftsman roots of industrial design with today’s concepts in terms of both design practice and culture.

Ceramic has been a material which serves human beings not only with its endurance and plainness to fulfil certain physical needs but also their spiritual needs since Venus of Dolní Věstonice. It has been evolved together with human beings as an important part of human culture. The role of ceramics as “culture conveyor” is still assumed by designers who can be defined as ceramic artists, craftsmen and modern craftsmen. It plays an important role in transferring cultural background from one generation to the next and acts in society as a bridge connecting the past, present and the future. n



Image Captions

Coffee cup. Late 19th century. Cup- diameter: 5.5 cm, height: 5.5 cm. Plate- diameter: 11 cm, French Limoges porcelain. Floral ornaments on blue surface are embossed and coated with golden gilt. Shaped by stylized floral ornament, the handle is coated with golden gilt.
Coffee cup. 19th century, diameter: 8 cm, height: 4.5 cm. On the cup, it writes in Ottoman language: “A cup of coffee will be remembered for forty years”12. This cup differs from modern cups or its contemporaries with its plainness. It is an example of cups without dominant floral ornaments.
Samples from modern Turkish coffee cups. Image credit: Tolga Yılmaz.
Dervish with cross-section.

by Tolga Yilmaz

Tolga Yılmaz graduated from Middle East Technical University, Industrial Design Department, Turkey in 1999. Between 2000 and 2005 he worked as research assistant in Anadolu University, Department of Industrial Design. In 2015 he finished his PhD research. He still continuing his studies as an academic staff in the same department.