An Interview with Alex Tukelturk

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Named after one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, Grand Bazaar is co-founded by Alexandra Tukelturk, whose jewelry line “Kader” offers the wearer a glimpse of Istanbul. Alex takes inspiration from the beauty and power of the Ottoman Empire, reinterpreting the magnificence of jewels and gemstones with her creative modern touch. Stunning jewels and semi-precious gemstones are set in sterling silver and oxidized brass for a stunning and elegant effect.

When and how did you realize that you have a talent in designing jewelries?

You know, I went to school for business management. However, I came from a house where my parents are extremely creative. Both my parents. My father was an artist from Colombia, and my mother’s a very creative woman so from them, I got that and I almost did not know that I have it until I started making little pieces of jewelries ten years ago. I got married to a Turkish man, and we started traveling to Turkey more often. Looking at all those beautiful jewelries in Turkey and knowing the stories behind them inspired me to start making jewelries and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Tell me about how your Turkish American background influenced and inspired your current collection at AsiaStore.  

When you think about Asia, Turkey is sitting in the middle of it. Say, if you go to Istanbul, half of it is in Asia, half of it is in Europe. In the Asian part of Istanbul, you’re gonna find a lot of history when Istanbul was Constantinople. The jewels from back then, from the Ottoman Empire, is what really inspires me to design. Obviously, I put my own twist in it, I put my own touch on the jewelries, and I follow the trends of the market. The jewelry industry is very dynamic today, it’s an industry that changes everyday, and you have to be aware of what’s happening everyday. So that’s what we do for the Asia Society designs.

What was your first piece of jewelry like? 

My first piece of jewelry was a ring. It was completely different from what you see today. It was more metal than stone, it was much more basic. You know, you evolve. With everything you do in your life, you acquire more experiences, and you become more trained in what you do. Things evolve and change, and what we’ve done today is the result of the evolution.

What is your design philosophy?

For me, three things are very important when I make a piece of jewelry. First, it has to be beautiful, obviously. It needs to be comfortable, but most of all, it has to be functional. You can have a gorgeous piece of jewelry but if it’s not functional, if you cannot wear it comfortably and feel like it’s part of your outfit, doesn’t say who you are or represents how you feel, then it’s not functional. For me that is the three keys in what I do.

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How do you go about creating a new piece? We’d love to know about your design process—choosing materials, design development, how the team works to do this…

It starts with a thought. Believe it or not, I design a lot when I travel. I travel extensively. When I spend so many hours sitting in an airplane, that’s when I start thinking what I want to do and I start drawing a lot. It starts with an idea and then it translates into a drawing. From that drawing, I sit down with my creative team in Turkey, and then we brainstorm about the piece. We decide what’s doable, what’s not doable, then it becomes a reality. We make it into a mould and from the mould, we actually test for functionality. We know how the metals stress, we know how the stones behave, we know absolutely everything about the piece before we put it in the market. So that’s what we do, we go through a lot of processes. Once a piece is done, and after we try it for a couple of weeks and make sure that it’s good, it’s beautiful and it works, we send it for production. It may take a couple of weeks. But sometimes when we make something more elaborate then it may take a couple of months. If it’s something that we’ve done before and we just want to add some new twist, then it’ll only take a couple of days.

What are your favorite materials to work with?

Stones. Natural stones. If you see something from Alex Tukelturk that has no stones, people might say “are you sure this is from her?” That’s kind of like my trademark.

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What does it mean to you to have your designs sold at AsiaStore at the Asia Society and Museum?

It’s a privilege to be here. I feel blessed to be looked upon. So many people in this area are customers who are educated and they appreciate a piece of jewelry that has so much history behind it. So, it’s really a privilege for me to be here.

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Click here to shop Alex Tukelturk’s products!