Zeynep Severge

In this conversation with Zeynep Severge, we talked about the craft of ceramics and the journey of her works reaching New York.

Photos: Elif Kahveci (@elifkahveci)

1. Hello Zeynep! Could you tell us a little about yourself? What kind of education did you receive, and where do you live and work? What are you spending most of your time on these days?

Hello! :>
I have been living in Beyoğlu for about 15 years. I couldn’t be a very academically focused child while growing up because I’ve been skiing on the national team for as long as I can remember, growing up in the mountains, and always being excused from school. Now that I think about it, I was too hyperactive and mischievous to sit in a classroom for hours at that age. As I got older, I began to realize that I wasn’t an ambitious person and didn’t enjoy competing with people. Unfortunately, I experienced the challenges of being an athlete with the mentality in Turkey, my heart was quite broken, and when it came time for university, I quit professional racing.
During that period, Santral Istanbul campus was very beautiful besides being a school and its location. Year-end Track exhibitions, Otto, Krek’s stage, etc., led me to the Advertising department of Bilgi University with a reverse questioning of ‘what can you study at this school?’ and I received my university diploma, but I was sure I didn’t want to work in that sector. During those years, my interest in design and architecture turned into an obsession, and I started to educate and research myself. Since then, I have attended various trainings and courses to enrich myself, and I still continue to research, read, work, and see as much as I can.

2. How did the ceramics journey begin? How did Severj come about?

Music has always been at the center of my life; concerts and clubs entered my life at a relatively early age, and thus Beyoğlu did too. Along with that, a whole new circle of people. At that time, I felt the need to produce something with my hands, but I was both very insecure and uneducated. For a while, I worked in agencies and on production sets, and with the money I could save, I started taking glass and ceramics courses. Initially, with my family’s support, I rented the studio I am currently in, bought my kiln and equipment. For the first few years, I worked almost 24/7 in the studio, sleeping on the floors like a madman in both summer and winter. Today, I am still learning the ancient knowledge applied in ceramics production through trial and error and getting to know the materials. I always try to modernize what I learn with my own taste and push the limits in terms of form and color. Everything developed very quickly for me, and in this process, with the support of my friends and customers, I became, or rather, turned into a boutique brand. I didn’t have any business plan; it developed and transformed on its own along the way.

3. Which stage of the production process do you enjoy the most?

Ceramics is a multi-stage craft, and it can sometimes be quite frustrating if you’re an impatient person; I struggled a lot at first. I love the feeling that when I open the kiln and finally hold a piece I’ve worked on for weeks, if nothing has gone wrong, it will outlive me by far. I produce everything with that respect and emotion.

4. Your studio has been in Galata/Tophane for about 8 years. How is your relationship with the neighborhood? Does it have any impact on your production process?

The building where my studio is located is quite special with its history, location, and the people it houses; I have met and worked with incredible people. While I felt like an introverted weirdo, over the years I turned into a very social person. I experience both very positive and negative effects of this… I live in the middle of Tophane and Galata, among people from many different cultures, which is extremely enjoyable and instructive for me.

5. The most prominent color in Severj Studio is Klein blue. What is the story behind this color?

In 2018, we went to Marrakech for a music festival, I fell in love with it the moment I saw it, and when I returned, I started experimenting with the pigments I collected there and came up with that infamous collection 🙂

6. How would you describe your daily style? What are the pieces you feel most comfortable in?

I usually dress oversized and comfort-focused, I’ve always been like that. I don’t think I am very feminine, especially in my clothing choices; I like that contrast. Anyway, I end up ruining most of the pieces I carefully buy in the studio shortly after.

7. You are wearing Bil’s Havana Shorts and an Odder Linen shirt. We know you’re a shirt person, but what do you think about Bil’s products?

I finally found the perfect match <3 they are incredibly comfortable!

Zeynep Severge

8. What does the future hold for Severj? Are there any new projects you are planning?

I finally returned from a much-needed vacation with new ideas, my mind started working again. These days, I am completing my existing orders and also finally started working on a new collection. If I am satisfied with it, I will try to share it 🙂
Additionally, I will soon organize the workshop requests that have been coming in for a long time. Although sharing my space and knowledge feels great, I usually become very introverted and love being alone in the studio. In the upcoming period, I will try to find that enjoyable balance without pushing myself too hard.

9. We know that your works were showcased at 1000 Vases in Paris. How was that experience for you? Is there a turning point for your brand that you can mention?

During the pandemic, when there were travel bans abroad, my works were exhibited in a gallery in Paris. Although it was a pleasant thing, it was sad not to be able to attend the opening. Later, at another exhibition, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, who saw my works, bought my entire collection and placed it in the middle of her legendary home in New York, leading to a crazy interest and demand from people for a while. I guess this was one of the turning points I can say, “I’m glad it happened.”

10. Thank you for your time. Finally, could you share a playlist you listen to while working?

Thank you very much for your interest and curiosity about my productions, it’s really very valuable…
Let me share an old but still not outdated playlist <3


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