The city of Istanbul is central to the jewelry designer Sevan Bıçakçı’s creative process. “I was born and raised in Istanbul. Istanbul is my home, my past and present and, very happily, my playground. Growing up in this city has shaped who I am,” said Bıçakçı. The inspiration he finds in the many sensations and sights of Istanbul is reflected in his dramatically detailed jewelry creations, such as his carved intaglio rings. Bıçakçı envisions the wearer of his jewelry as similar to a Greek goddess, a woman who is a leader.
Whitewaller spoke with Bıçakçı about his design process, pioneering inimitable production techniques, and his first United States boutique, in Miami.
WHITEWALLER: How does your hometown of Istanbul in Turkey inspire your jewelry design?
SEVAN BIÇAKÇI: Very inevitably, as it is the main stage of my everyday life. So much about my character, my understanding about history and culture, my taste for food, fine arts—the entire pattern of my acquired taste is shaped by where I live. Jewelry making is a way to express oneself. I simply wanted to create a style that could reflect my soul, which is very much influenced by my environment. It is multilayered, just like Istanbul—a crazy mix of details melted together.
Each cultural, historical era is influenced by the preceding one, though both may have totally different origins. The city is a melting pot amalgamating even contradictory ingredients to a unique kind of harmony. My quest is about making jewelry that embodies this kind of spirit.
WW: What is your design process like? Does it start from a stone? Does it start from a sketch?
SB: In the beginning, I wanted to capture the flavor, the memory, the sensations of Istanbul in a jewel. That was the goal in creating work that was truly my own. We work together—ideas and talents flying from one hand to another in our workshop— to tell you a story of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, life in Istanbul, nature, and so on. In cases of exceptionally rare stones like emeralds and rubies, we would conceive designs according to the size and shape of a gemstone. However, much more often than that, we simply start with storytelling and sketching.
WW: Earlier this year, you opened your first U.S. store, in Miami’s Design District. The design of the space includes hand- painted tile, domed ceilings, and your signature dagger door handles. Can you tell us more about the design of the store?
SB: I wanted the space to reflect the sensitivity that is normally immersed in the myriad of Istanbul’s oriental charms, the very basic emotion that has been giving shape and meaning to my work since the beginning of my journey as a jewelry maker. The ceiling has thus come to be covered with a number of complete and incomplete domes that are painted with some flower, bird, and talismanic cintamani motifs following the art of 16th- century Iznik tiles. Like with churches, these domes are the vault of heaven above my boutique’s interior. You see the Garden of Eden above your head, and these domes can beam you straight to where I get my inspirations.
The feeling of Istanbul as a gateway between the East and the West is quite reflected by Miami as a melting pot between southern and northern worlds of the West. I could live there if I weren’t so obsessed with Istanbul.