The Power of Transformation in the Ceramic Art of Esma Dereboy

Esma Dereboy - Turkish Ceramic Artists - Lace Work Ceramic Art

As a young girl I was always fascinated with butterflies, specifically in the way that caterpillars magically transformed into beautiful winged creatures. Within the chrysalis there is a secretive process that changes a being from one shape to another. Something new and beautiful emerges. Akin to my girlish wonder with butterflies and their delicately crafted wings, Esma Dereboy’s ceramic art fills me with that same sense of fascination. Dereboy understands more than anyone else that within the process of transformation, there is so much potential for beauty.

Esma Dereboy working on her ceramic art, a white circle covered with etched words in turkish

Fascinated by Transformation

Esma Dereboy describes her work as “completely about transformation and change. To see the process of the clay in your hand transform is spectacular… seeing it step by step is a process that changes and transforms you too.” Having been brought up in Kütahya, the Turkish city known as the heart of ceramics, it was impossible for the artist to not become involved with this cherished aspect of her culture. “The ceramic art that you see in most places in Kütahya had pulled me right into its center.” Dereboy describes her childhood memories of small workshops on every street corner, where she could observe the way an empty plate finds its character through the hands of an artisan. Seeing the way it transformed into a completely different form always attracted her attention. “Curiosity and love for ceramics always was a part of me,” Dereboy says.

Esma Dereboy working on her ceramic art

“All my collections carry traces from my life. All my life experiences are my source of inspiration.”

Detail of ceramic art by Esma Dereboy

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Falling in Love with Ceramic Art

The ceramic art of Esma Dereboy is best described as timeless. Dereboy is part of an ancient craft dating back from the 14th century to the present. For centuries, there have been so many masters in the ceramic arts. “I had to be different to find a place for myself.” Combining the motifs and patterns of the 14th century with the minimalistic style of modern times, Dereboy carefully honed her craft. This love for ceramic art began when she first received painting lessons at a ceramics atelier. She learned of the ways a brush can be used to create beautiful flawless details. From this point on, whenever possible, she spent all her free time in ceramic workshops. Then in 2008, she established her own workshop with the Esma Dereboy brand.

Ceramic art by Esma Dereboy - red, gold and white vases with natural motifs

Inspired by Life

“As my life shapes, I also shape ceramics… When I form and shape my ceramic pieces, they tell me about Esma.” In describing her inspiration for her art, Dereboy talked about the importance of vividly experiencing life. “All my collections carry traces from my life. All my life experiences are my source of inspiration.”

For example, her Bride collection represents the period of her life when she was married. Karahisari represents a period in which she prayed often, especially for the gift of patience. Yas, a collection covered in black lace, represents a time of deep mourning. Saf, a Turkish word translated to purity, gratefully acknowledges the pure emotions that life provides for her. All these periods of her life are reflected within her art, and her art represents the life of Esma Dereboy.

Ceramic art sculptures by Esma Dereboy

When I asked her for the purpose behind making these pieces, Dereboy answered, “Leaving some traces of me for the future, I think…” Unlike the ephemeral life of butterflies, the essence of Esma Dereboy will live on in her timeless ceramic pieces. Within life, there is art. Within art, life continues forever.

All Images Courtesy of Esma Dereboy

Words and Interview by Hojung Lee

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