Istanbul artist carves miniatures for architecture lovers

Inspired by his father, Suphi developed love for art at an early age. He made his first miniature model of a house with matchsticks when he was just 10.

Photo by: TRT
Photo by: TRT

Suphi Durmusoglu at his workshop near Ortakoy mosque.

Suphi Durmusoglu creates miniature models of buildings with a special focus on doors and windows. Made of metal and wood, the models catch the attention of passers-by and architecture lovers.

Suphi was born in Trabzon, a city on the Black Sea coast of north-eastern Turkey.

Suphi’s father was a carpenter from whom he derives the inspiration for his work. Working with few simple tools at his small and portable workshop in Ortakoy, Istanbul, where he has been living for the past 27 years, Suphi says the city provided him an opportunity to present his work to people from all over the world. He has sold over 18,000 miniature models to tourists from various countries.

Suphi uses old metal cans and wood for his work.

“Eat, drink, work and visit new places – this is my philosophy,” Suphi told TRT World while explaining his views on life.

“The ideas are not hard to find. I visit different places and take photos. Later, I use those photos to create a miniature building model. Sometimes I also use the internet to find an idea for a new model,” he said.

Miniature work by Suphi.

Suphi has a very keen eye for details when it comes to his models. It usually takes him two to three days to make a model, but sometimes it takes longer. “It took me almost one week to make a small model of a sewing machine,” Suphi said. “The shortest time I took to make a complete model is 36 hours.”

When he made the model of a house in the Cesme district of Izmir, a coastal town in western part of Turkey. The hardest part was to make the moving-handle of the door, he said.

Suphi has an interesting way of finding names for his miniature models. He names them after children he meets on streets. “I love children and whenever I see a beautiful child, I name my miniature model after the name of that child.”

His choice of colours is also a sensitive matter. While he buys some of the colours required for his models from the market, he develops most of them on his own. “I can crush a coloured stone or a piece of a tile to develop a new colour for my model.”

He made his first model of a double-storey house that belonged to his grandfather at the age of 10 using matchsticks.

Suphi professionally started selling his models in 1983 and opened his first exhibition in 2002 in a cultural centre in Istanbul’s Besiktas.

Explaining his decision to move to Istanbul, Suphi said, “There are more opportunities for work in Istanbul than any other city so I prefer to stay in this city,” Suphi commented. “I enjoy my work and I love it. I do not get discouraged by difficulties and hardships in my way."

Miniature shop models by Suphi.

He dreams of one day opening an art gallery of miniature work. “I want to open an art gallery where I will exhibit my work. If this happens, it would be my greatest achievement,” he said.

But there are a number of obstacles. “There is no support or funding from the government for artists. If we want to see arts flourishing in the country, we need to establish more art galleries. Schools should take their students on regular visits to different art galleries,” he suggested.

He also pointed out that usually customers consider that his models are costly. “There is no price for the art. It is priceless. But people do not understand the worth of art,” he said while explaining why the sale of such items was so low. In Europe, he sold his models for around 65 euros but in Turkey, people are not ready to pay this much money.

“There are things that money cannot buy,” the artist said.  

“Usually I sell around six miniature models in a week. And sometimes just four. It is really hard to live with this meagre amount,” he said.

“People are more interested in spending money on luxury items. They pay less attention to arts. That is why artists are poor in this country.”

Suphi works from his small stall near Ortakoy mosque in Istanbul where his artwork is put on sale every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.