Oh yes, we’re into leather and proudly so!

In the middle of the summer, Melih, my wonderful business partner, said that some people from a shoe factory wanted to work with us. That sounded intriguing, but by now, we are used to such ‘wanting to work together’ comments that really don’t lead anywhere. So, when four boxes of leather scraps and samples arrived at our workshop a few weeks later, I was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised and very excited.

I hadn’t met with the good people at Beta yet but they were sincere enough about wanting to work together that they brought Melih to their factory on the outskirts of sprawling Istanbul. He said they were good people but production is down here in Ayvalik… anyone who really wants to work with us really has to come down here, see what we can do, and, more importantly, see the impact of cooperation on our ladies.

Meanwhile, what were we to do with the materials in the boxes? I called Şebnem from the Beta factory and asked if we could start to see what we could do. We hadn’t met in person but once we actually spoke, the comfort of colleagues that you could be friends with was apparant. ‘That’s why we sent the materials – we want to see what you can make from them.’ I asked if they had anything in mind, to which I was told ‘do your thing;’ and so we did, and had a great time in the process.

We made wallets, purses, phone cases, key chains, necklaces. We sewed solid pieces together, mixing the practical with the fun, and always colorful. We crocheted smaller pieces into wallets. We made ‘yarn’ out of leather scraps, crocheted them together, made them into a purse which we lined. We had a great time playing with the colors, textures, thicknesses and designs.

It had been a while since we were able to be so creative, so we just let ourselves go, playing with color combinations, remembering and revelling in the energy that comes with innovation. After a few weeks, we had a good number of samples ready to be sent off. The reaction was ‘we are coming down to see you and the workshop.’  We were even more excited as a trip to visit our workshop is almost always a guarantee of a cooperation, which means work for us and more work for our dedicated ladies. Three people from Beta and a designer from Gön (another impressive leather company here in Turkey) took the night bus down from Istanbul to spend the weekend with us. I figured they would be tired after the 9 hour trip, but they were ready and raring to get moving.

Our ladies loved that the Beta/ Gön team ooh’ed and awed over the pieces we worked on for them. We all appreciated their warmth, sincerity and that we could be our ownselves as our guests were so down-to-earth, comfortable with who they are and knew that we both were modern versions of days gone by,  yet live in the 21st century. What was happening was that gorgeous feeling when one idea leads to another that leads to another and yet another, the synergy of talent, experience, warmth and the acknowledgement that working together often brings benefits all parties.

The Beta Team gave us some ideas while at the same time encouraging ours, all the while making it clear that they liked and respected our work, our own take on their materials. We are first and foremost garbage ladies, not leather experts, but we are eager to learn.  They gave us some tips; we let them know what we could do given our equipment and machines; they let us know how they could help us from their factory, with bigger machines and much more experience ad expertise. The official result was an agreement to work together on an order to be in their shops for New Year’s shopping. ‘çöp(m)adam  for Beta’ has a rather nice ring to it, even if we say so ourselves! The unofficial result however was an incredible amount of energy for us to move forward with Beta as well as with other ideas and orders. Oh, how one thrives when someone believes in what you can do!

We can continue our work, continue to exist, only if we diversify. And while we ourselves are trying to do just that, it is so invigorating when someone else finds you and wants to work together to help you keep going and to be part of your goals and beliefs.

Another amazing experience in the life of the garbage ladies. Thank you wonderful Beta and Gön people!